As marijuana perceptions change nationwide, Anchorage sees budding businesses

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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - A once black-market drug is now out in the open, and marijuana business owners say attitudes about cannabis are changing across the country.

In Alaska, they say, it starts with the people in charge of the regulations.

“The biggest thing I can say is the city,” said Alaska Green Light District Chief Operating Officer Rich Beezley. “That’s the biggest turnaround I’ve seen.”

On Thursday, Beezley was overseeing some of the finishing touches on the retail location, including the installation of a fountain at the front of the store. He said the city went from being wary, to looking at businesses like his as legitimate.

“It was a defense mechanism of 'hey these guys are bad, to hey these guys actually aren't that bad if they follow these guidelines you're not going to have any issues.'”

Across Anchorage, there are currently 21 marijuana retail business operating, with another 11 in the process of becoming licensed.
While some communities across the state are considering putting a cap on the number of allowed businesses, that isn’t being discussed by the Anchorage assembly.

Assembly Chair Dick Traini said he would have preferred the state to build a cap into regulations, similar to how liquor licenses are regulated.

“The state should have done that but they haven't yet,” Traini said. “Eventually we may have to, but we're not looking at it now.”

Traini says he doesn’t think the perception of marijuana has changed, but that opponents of it have accepted that it’s legal in the state. But Beezley says little by little, people are coming around.

“If we keep progressing like we should then I think that a year, two years from now it will be substantially different than it is today,” he said. “However, today compared to a year ago it's substantially better.”

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