The Valdez Star - Serving Prince William Sound and Copper River Basin

Editor Valdez Star 

High standards: Legal marijuana store set to receive state license renewal

No uptick in crime or nuisances noted as weed outlet nears two-year anniversary


Courtesy file photo

Rick Ballow, owner of Herbal Outfitters, receiving his marijuana license from the state inspector in October, 2016, while the store's manager, Derek Morris, looked on.

Alaska's first legal retail marijuana store cleared one more hurdle in its quest to renew its state license.

Herbal Outfitters, located on Fairbanks St. in Valdez, was the first retailer to receive a state license to legally sell marijuana to consumers and is the only store in Alaska that has been able to continually operate since voters elected to allow pot to be openly sold and regulated in a manner similar to alcohol.

A week ago Tuesday, the Valdez City Council unanimously approved the renewal, a step required by the Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office (AMCO.)

In Valdez, the City Council acts as the local regulating authority over retail marijuana stores and grow facilities.

The renewal received no objections from city administration or the Valdez Police Department; both entities submitted letters to council stating there was no objection to the license renewal.

"To date, the Valdez Police Department has not received any substantiated complaints against Herbal Outfitters that allege any violations or illegal business practices," Valdez Police Chief Bart Hinkle said in a report to council supporting the renewal. "I see no justifiable reason to oppose the retail marijuana license store renewal for Herbal Outfitters."

Hinkle's report also said that Valdez Police have conducted at least three inspections of the store, which is located within eyesight of city hall, and that the store, its management and employees have been cooperative with the inspections and during investigations.

The store's manager, Derek Morris, said Herbal Outfitters is "honored" to serve Valdez.

He also said the store, its owners and personnel have strived to maintain high standards (no pun intended) and that it has worked hard to operate within the law.

The store has passed numerous surprise inspections, and its inventory, security and paperwork have been found to be well within compliance of all regulations according to the manager.

"We've passed all these with flying colors," Morris said.

While the store has been able to remain open even during the first rocky months of legal marijuana in Alaska – other retailers in the state sometimes were temporarily closed due to local problems or could not open due to inventory shortages – Herbal Outfitters has survived shortages, inspections and even local opposition to marijuana sales within the city limits.

In the 2017 municipal election cycle, a group opposed to legal marijuana sponsored a ballot measure that, if passed, would have banned legal marijuana sales in Valdez, despite the 2014 statewide ballot measure that Alaskans passed that led the way for legal recreational marijuana use and sales.

The Valdez City Council gave its consent to the renewal during its regular June 5 meeting; the matter was included in the council's consent agenda. The vote was unanimous, with council members Chris Moulton and Lon Needles absent and excused.

While recreational marijuana use and sales are legal in Alaska, it remains illegal under federal law, creating a vast gray area for owners of marijuana businesses. Possible changes on the federal level are discussed in a story published on page 11 in this edition of the Valdez Star.


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