In 2014, Alaska voted for the first unified legal cannabis program in the US, meaning both recreational and medical cannabis were combined into one program. However, the two are still very different, each requiring different licensing periods and qualifications. So, how does one open a dispensary in Alaska?
Legalization in Alaska
Alaska legalized cannabis in 2014, and began selling it in late 2016. They are the first state to have a unified recreational and medical program. There are still some differences between the two. For example, the recreational program is still issuing licenses, while the medical program is accessible to limited patients.
To obtain medicinal cannabis, one must apply for either a patient or a caregiver card, with absolutely no other active cannabis business licenses. In July of 2016, Alaska passed a law that gives municipalities the freedom to prohibit and revoke recreational licenses, if deemed necessary.
There are already a small number of dispensaries currently in the state, though the market is far from saturated. At this point, Alaska has issued 54 active licenses for medical dispensaries, 109 licenses for medical cultivation, 8 active licenses for manufacturing, and 3 testing labs.
What is Alaska’s Market Worth?
The cannabis industry in Alaska is incredibly wealthy. In 2016, medical sales were around 4 million. They are projected to increase to 11.3 million in 2021. The projected recreational adult use sales for the same year are expected to reach around 79.3 million.
Dispensary Owner Requirements
If you want to operate a dispensary in Alaska, there are standard procedures that you must follow. You would do well to read through the following list carefully so you don’t any details.
Make sure you research your potential operating location(s) and investigate whether obtaining a license is actually possible in the prospective cities or counties. Then, acquire the necessary licenses to operate your retail store to fully comply with the law. Finally, before you open, double check that the operational infrastructure is compliant with all regulations.
If you can’t do it yourself, contract with cultivators and/or manufacturers to grow or produce cannabis products for you.
Getting a license for a dispensary business is the same as getting one for a typical retail store. The main difference obviously is finding cultivators to grow cannabis for you if your business doesn’t have the necessary capacity.
Opening cannabis retail stores and dispensaries is legal in the state of Alaska. However, the state allows the local municipalities to ban or revoke licensed dispensaries as they see fit. Before setting up your dispensary or other business, research the market before making your move.
- Retail sales
- Manufacturing (including edibles)
- Vertical integration of licenses is permitted.
- Testing licensees are not permitted to hold other marijuana business licenses.
- Your license will be tied to the physical location of your business, meaning that if you move, you have to apply for a new license.
- There is no limit as to how many licenses can be issued per individual or company.
As of February 2016, you can apply online for a cannabis business license for a fee. On January 22, 2016, the state finalized the Alaskan cannabis industry regulations, which became state law on February 21, 2016.
The fees are as follows:
- Application fee: $1,000
- License for retail marijuana store: $5,000
- License renewal application: $600
Annual license fees:
- Retail license: $5000
- Full cultivation: $5000
- Limited cultivation (less than 500 square feet): $1000
- Extracts-only: $1000
- Product manufacturing: $5000
- Cannabis testing facility: $1000
Because of the licensing requirements, it will be some time before you can expect to open your business. Allow at least a year to get all of your finances in order, acquire the correct licenses, and secure lasty, secure suppliers and employees.
Links to Consulting Companies
The consulting companies listed below can help with state licensing requirements, completing applications as well as running and stocking your business.
- Canna Advisors
- Quantum 9 Inc.
- Medicine Man Technologies
- Comprehensive Cannabis Consulting
- Green Rush Consulting