State officials 'subverting' marijuana industry, outgoing board member says

Published: Aug. 2, 2016 at 1:00 AM AKDT
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An outgoing member of the Alaska Marijuana Control Board says some officials in Gov. Bill Walker's administration, as well as remaining board members, are attempting to delay implementation of the voter-approved commercial cannabis industry.

"There's an underlying agenda to subvert the process, to delay the implementation of a legalized marijuana industry," says Bruce Schulte, who was abruptly removed from the five-member board on Friday by the governor. "It doesn't look like the State of Alaska is really serious about making this happen."

A replacement was not immediately announced.

Since the 2014 initiative that legalized commercial sale of marijuana, the board has been tasked with establishing rules for the new industry and with vetting applications for business licenses.

Schulte previously served as chair of the board, though he was removed from that role earlier this year.

The Alaska Journal of Commerce first reported Walker's removal of Schulte.

Asked about the resignation and Schulte's claim that some members of the administration are obstructing the ability of businesses set to open this fall to grow and sell cannabis, the governor's spokesperson denies the allegation and says the change was based upon job performance.

"Schulte's approach to the staff and the administrative process was not satisfactory," Grace Jang wrote in an email. "All board members serve at the pleasure of the governor, and the governor felt it was time for a change."

Still, Schulte contends obstructionists on the board -- and in Walker's administration -- are establishing unreasonably strict regulations that will impact new businesses.

"There's been a concerted effort to manipulate the makeup of the marijuana control board to make a board that is more favorable to a certain agenda, and that agenda is not what the voters asked for," Schulte says, adding that he is not sure what exactly the agenda is.

In a separate move, Walker's deputy legislative liaison, Lacy Wilcox, is also no longer with the administration, Jang confirmed.

Details of Wilcox's departure are not immediately clear, but in her latest role with the administration she advocated Walker's policy proposals to legislators.

She previously worked in the Revenue Department as a special assistant, specializing in marijuana policy. She was part of a state delegation that traveled to Colorado in 2015 to learn about how that state initially regulated the cannabis industry there.