KASILOF (KTUU) In a secured area just off the Sterling Highway a grey, industrial building sits; behind it, four greenhouses stand.
Inside those greenhouses awaits next year’s round of profitable plants.
A few weeks ago marijuana crops filled all four domes at Greatland Ganja in Kasilof. With winter quickly approaching, cultivators had to harvest fast, finishing up in late September. Now, there are hundreds of pounds of bud filling a couple dozen containers in the facility’s office.
Alaska is just weeks away from seeing its first retail shop open, co-owner of Greatland Ganja Leif Abel hopes his product will be on the those store shelves. But he fears that currently the market is in danger of not having enough product to meet the potential demand.
“Most industry folks are looking at a situation where there’s going to be a shortage in the beginning, hopefully within six months to a year all of us cultivators can catch up,” he said.
To be able to harvest year round, Abel and his brother Arthur are growing marijuana hydroponically. They’ve got 10 different strains in their vegetative room that are waiting to be transplanted into a production room that’s under construction.
Growing marijuana hydroponically means using a sterile growing medium instead of soil and will be produced inside instead of outside, allowing the brothers to produce a consistent product for people year-round.
The problem right now is that so far none of their product has made a profit.
“The biggest hurdle is that nobody’s ever done this before in Alaska,” said Abel.
That causes some uncertainty. The Abel’s have invested around $800,000 in their business and so far have seen zero dollars in return.
“Until that happens it’s just a big question mark in the air, it’s never been done before and from a business prospective that’s of course - if not risky – at least somewhat tenuous and keeps you on the edge of your seat,” Abel said.
Greatland Ganja is facing what other cultivators and retail shop owners are facing; waiting for the testing labs to open.
Marijuana cannot hit store shelves until it’s tested by a state approved facility. Currently the state has given licenses to two businesses, both in Anchorage. CannTest LLC is likely to be the first testing facility to open its doors. The owners hope for a mid to late October opening day.
If all goes as planned, Alaska could see its first retail shop open as soon as the end of the month or early November.
Meanwhile, next year the Kenai Peninsula Borough will be voting on an area wide ban.
If that passes, Greatland Ganja and others won’t be able to operate.
Fairbanks will also hold a vote on a ban of all marijuana businesses in 2017. So far Palmer, Wasilla, North Pole and Soldotna have all voted to prohibit marijuana in their communities.