KODIAK — Kodiak currently has just one operating marijuana retail store –– but, by the end of the year, it may have three. Kodiakan Janiese Stevens has plans to set up a marijuana retail store called Wildflower at 158 Alimaq Drive on Near Island.
“I’ve always been an advocate for the industry,” Stevens said. “I’ve always felt like it made sense –– twenty years ago, I felt like it made sense. So I’m excited to see this happen in my lifetime, and it’s definitely something I’ve always been interested in.”
Stevens was born and raised in Kodiak and has lived on the island for most of her life. She and her husband co-own several commercial fishing vessels; she also earns a living as a certified accountant.
“I’ve been doing that (accountancy) for quite a few years. Between my husband and I, we have four kids who are starting to get older –– as are we,” she said. “We’ve invested in fishing a lot, but now we’re thinking we’re kind of going to shift gears here a little in the second stage of life.”
Stevens has been granted approval to open her marijuana retail store from the state, though the building will still requires an inspection. She is currently working on the storefront, while waiting for final approval from the Kodiak Island Borough Assembly and Kodiak City Council.
Kodiak has one marijuana store open for business –– High Rise LLC, 104 Center St. Another store, The Dejavu Cannabis Company, has already had its license approved by the state and a building to house the store is being erected behind The Rendezvous Bar and Grill. The island also has a fully operational, though small-scale, marijuana cultivation facility called Bells Flats Botanicals, products of which are now available to purchase at High Rise.
If successful, however, Stevens will Kodiak’s first business-owner to pull off simultaneously growing and selling the product. She said that she initially had the idea to commercially cultivate marijuana several years ago, around when a 2014 ballot measure resulted in legalization.
“Alaska’s kind of cool, because we’re a state that allows multiple licenses,” Stevens said. “Certain states like Washington, you wouldn’t be able to hold both a cultivation and a retail –– it’s one or the other.”
She and her husband own a warehouse in town, and Stevens was initially planning on using it to set up a legal grow-op. Due to the warehouse’s proximity to East Elementary, however, municipal codes stymied the effort –– but Stevens had a contingency plan.
She, along with a business partner Dan Coglianese, are in the process of setting up a cultivation facility, called Alaska Lovin It, in Homer.
“My grower -– he’s lived between both Kodiak and Homer. But when we took me being the property-owner out of the equation, it just made more sense to grow in Homer –– it’s cheaper for electricity there and you’re on the mainland,” Stevens said. “He’s really experienced. He’s been doing it most of his life. We’ll have a high quality product that we can put on our shelves and those of other retailers throughout the state.”
According to the state Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office, a cultivation license for Alaska Lovin It is approved and active, pending inspection of the facility. Stevens said they’re aiming to have an inspector visit the facility within the next eight weeks.
“Each will be mutually exclusive,” Stevens said, referring to both the cultivation facility and the retail store. “With our cultivation, we can sell product to any retailer. And, vice versa –– the retail will, of course, flood our product through there, but will also carry other brands of product that other consumers want. They’ll work together, but won’t be completely dependent on each other.”
Stevens was quick to point out that she does plan to stock some Kodiak-grown product and said that she’s known Greg Egle, the owner-operator of Bells Flats Botanicals, for a long time.
“I’m a Kodiak-born girl. I love to represent local business,” she said. “I would definitely carry his product.”
When it comes to the question of cannabis edibles, Stevens sees Kodiak’s ban as a misstep. Though she accepts the decision, she believes that the regulation was introduced due to a lack of education. She pointed out that a medical professional who might advocate for the benefits of medical marijuana would still never recommend a patient smoke anything.
“People maybe weren’t familiar with how the state manages it, so it may have been a little bit of a fear-based decision,” Stevens said. “I would like to think that once the store fronts are open and they’re seeing that we’re running them responsibility and that maybe there’s some more education as to how things are packaged and tested –– maybe those fear-based decisions will go away.”
Echoing what High Rise LLC owner Jack Schactler told the Kodiak Daily Mirror when his store opened in June, Stevens foresees that the ban on edibles will be lifted with enough community support.
“I like to think that within a year, we can approach the city with an ordinance,” she said.
“For people who don’t want to smoke, edibles really are a viable option, if you’re responsible with them. The state has very strict packaging guidelines. I think that it’s a personal choice that government really has no place in deciding –– just like liquor.”
Stevens’ license for Wildflower was among those granted approval by the state Marijuana Control Board, which met Wednesday-Friday in Fairbanks. Stevens is hoping to get approval from the city and borough during the meeting cycle in August.
“We’ve started our build out,” Stevens said. “Realistically, I would say we could open in early fall.”