ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Since recreational use became legal in Alaska, marijuana businesses have joined other state industries such as oil and fishing in working to influence how their sector is regulated.
Marijuana businesses are holding fundraisers and interacting with local and state leaders to try to build the industry’s political capital, The Anchorage Daily News reported Sunday.
The lobbying efforts are aimed at shaping everything from rules restricting signage to how the industry is taxed.
Anchorage marijuana attorney Jana Weltzin encourages her clients to engage with politicians and make donations.
“It’s really important if you don’t like the way the government is handling its business to be involved and to make that known and to contribute to the politicians that you think will change the system,” Weltzin said.
Anchorage Assemblyman Forrest Dunbar, who is running for mayor in 2021, said the marijuana business has always been “more sophisticated than people think.”
Weltzin said the industry can point out loopholes and the unintended consequences of regulation, which she predicted will continue to change over the next three years.
“It’s still evolving,” she said. “In 2016, these regulations were made with no real understanding of how it was going to look in real life.”
The state currently imposes a marijuana weight tax of $800 per pound (0.45 kilograms), meaning the highest and lowest quality marijuana is taxed at the same rate.
Within the industry there is debate whether the tax burden should be spread throughout the process of cultivation, manufacturing and retail sales. Some want a sales tax while others want a lower weight tax.
Making tax adjustments is an industry priority, but the goal is not to buy off politicians, Weltzin said.
“What we want is responsible legislation, common-sense legislation, but not open up the floodgates and just treat it like it’s a gas station,” she said.
Weltzin added: “It’s still a substance that needs to be valued and respected and kept away from kids, because that would be the downfall of the industry.”