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Alaska marijuana regulators OK first licenses for growing, testing

JUNEAU, Alaska — Alaska regulators were applauded Thursday as they approved the first licenses for legal marijuana growing and testing facilities — another milestone for the fledgling industry.

Priority was being given to growing and testing operations to ensure that retail stores will have legal product to sell. The first retail licenses are expected to be issued later this year.

Thirty applications were on the agenda Thursday at a meeting of the Marijuana Control Board in Anchorage. Two were for testing facilities. The rest were for grow operations.

The first application approved came from CannTest LLC of Anchorage, a marijuana testing facility. The action was greeted by applause and cheers.

“That’s history right there, folks,” board member Brandon Emmett said.

Businesses that were granted licenses still need to clear national background checks and, in some cases, complete local requirements.

Mark Malagodi, CEO of CannTest, said it felt good. “It’s just the first hurdle,” he said. “It’s a big one and it’s really exciting.”

Testing facilities will play an important role in the industry because cultivators and processors must have their product tested for such things as potency and potential toxins.

It’s not yet clear how many testing facilities the industry will need because the amount of product to be examined has not yet been determined, board member Bruce Schulte said Wednesday. Alaska needs at least one functioning lab, he said.

“Whether the right number is two or four or one, that remains to be seen,” said Schulte.

Both businesses approved for testing licenses are in Anchorage. But getting samples to the labs could be tricky for businesses in communities not connected to the road system.