JUNEAU, Alaska — Regulators amid a lot fanfare in early 2020 accepted two hashish lounges in Alaska, making it one of many few states the place prospects can be allowed to make use of marijuana at retail pot retailers.
Then the pandemic hit.
One of many websites opened briefly in Ketchikan in October, close to the beginning of a statewide COVID-19 surge that an proprietor stated pressured it to hit pause. The opposite, in Fairbanks, hopes to open later this yr.
Information present a small variety of different store homeowners have filed paperwork signaling plans to hunt approval for consumption hangouts — the place prospects can smoke marijuana or eat or drink marijuana merchandise — although the virus has brought about a few of them to delay their efforts too.
One is Joe McAneney, who owns The Excessive Expedition Co. within the vacationer city of Talkeetna. He has lengthy envisioned a two-story lounge behind his store, with a “cigar bar really feel” and views of the northern lights and Denali, North America’s highest peak. McAneney stated he not too long ago thought-about pursuing an interim plan, resembling refurbishing outdated buses by which non-public events might collect to partake for set blocks of time, however thought higher of it.
“To begin a brand new enterprise and to spend cash and create … a brand new factor throughout this time, to me, it’s not very accountable; it doesn’t make lots of sense,” he stated. McAneney stated he goals to return to his unique plan, with hopes to open for summer time 2022.
He and different enterprise homeowners say they’ve been in a position to climate the pandemic, even with final yr’s crash in vacationer numbers. Marijuana companies had been allowed to remain open, and he stated he was happy by the extent of assist from Alaskans and impartial vacationers.
The enterprise additionally has discovered methods to run extra effectively, resembling with on-line ordering, he stated.
Dan Peters, an proprietor of GoodSinse in Fairbanks, stated he was shocked by how many individuals had been shopping for hashish. “I believe perhaps even bulk quantities of buying had been taking place,” he stated.
“I simply assume that persons are caught at dwelling and wanted issues to do,” he stated. “That’s one thing enjoyable that doesn’t trigger an excessive amount of bother.”
GoodSinse was one of many first two companies accepted for on-site use by the state Marijuana Management Board in January 2020. Over the past yr, Peters stated he centered on different points of the enterprise, which embody retail, cultivation and manufacturing, as a result of the pandemic — and social distancing — made it arduous to create the expertise he wished for the deliberate café-style consumption space.
As extra persons are vaccinated, he stated he expects to renew work on the consumption space and hopes to open it this summer time.
Elsewhere within the U.S., a small variety of cities, together with in California, have licensed marijuana lounges. However Chris Lindsey, director of presidency relations with the Marijuana Coverage Mission, stated on-site consumption is so new, “we don’t know but if it’s a terrific enterprise mannequin.”
Lindsey stated offering a spot for individuals to make use of hashish legally has been a driver within the push for these websites.
A serious consideration for Alaska’s Marijuana Management Board in establishing guidelines for on-site use, for instance, was giving vacationers a spot to smoke or devour edibles.
Smoking marijuana in public is prohibited in all states. In Colorado, property homeowners can ban marijuana in rental models.
Brandon Emmett, an government with Good Titrations in Fairbanks, hopes to have the ability to open what he calls a hashish café on April 20, a date on which marijuana customers have lengthy celebrated a love of hashish. He stated he thinks many residents “are prepared to return out and have issues be regular once more.”
The enterprise at present suggests patrons put on a masks, and it could “probably” encourage individuals to put on one within the consumption space after they aren’t consuming, ingesting or smoking, he stated. Whereas some Alaska cities require masks in companies, Fairbanks doesn’t.
Emmett, a former member of the Marijuana Management Board who strongly advocated for guidelines to permit on-site use, stated he thinks the variety of hashish lounges or cafés within the state will likely be restricted “for no less than a pair years.” He cites guidelines coping with air flow and different constructing restrictions, which he supported, and what might be a second yr with out main cruise ships visiting Alaska.
Emmett stated he feels a powerful sense of accountability in shifting ahead.
“There’s very a lot a lightweight shining on us, and it’s crucial that we at Good Titrations set the instance for the way it might be accomplished responsibly,” he stated.
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