The Alaska Legislature rejected by a single-vote margin well known anti-cannabis activist Vivian Stiver of Fairbanks to the Alaska Marijuana Control Board during a joint confirmation hearing Wednesday.
Even though Stiver received 30 votes in favor and 29 votes against, the Alaska Constitution states that an appointment must be confirmed by a majority of the Legislature, meaning that even though Rep. Mark Neuman, R-Big Lake, was excused from the session, a majority of the 60-member body is still required to confirm a nomination.
Gov. Mike Dunleavy appointed Stiver to the board at the end of January.
Stiver's appointment has been one of heated controversy, with public testimony largely opposing the former Fairbanks City Council member.
The original nomination sparked outrage from the Alaska Marijuana Industry Association and cannabis advocates across the state who worried that Stiver would work to stifle the industry. Those opposing Stiver called her a "prohibitionist" during committee hearings and urged legislators to reject the nomination.
Cary Carrigan, executive direction of the association, posted a statement to the association's website thanking supporters of the industry for testifying against the nomination.
"This was a huge day for the AMIA and the people who are working hard for your right to succeed in this Industry. We still have work ahead of us, but for now we can bask in the fact that we worked a really difficult dynamic, TOGETHER, and all the work paid off," Carrigan wrote.
Stiver has long been a vocal activist against the legalization of marijuana in Alaska, chairing the anti-retail coalition Safe Neighborhoods Fairbanks and launching a Fairbanks ballot proposition in 2017 that would have banned any commercial cannabis activity within city limits. The measure failed.
Discussion varied during the confirmation hearing Wednesday with members like Fairbanks Democratic Reps. Grier Hopkins and Adam Wool urging the Legislature to reject Stiver based on her anti-marijuana views and past activism while others such as Republican Reps. Bart LeBon of Fairbanks and Tammie Wilson of North Pole spoke in favor.
Hopkins noted the job of someone on this board is to "regulate the industry, not to put the brakes on a growing industry."
LeBon identified past interactions with Stiver during his banking days, noting her professional manner and good credit standing.
Wilson spoke in strong support of Stiver's nomination.
"I'm really tired of the fight that she's not an industry person. So what?" Wilson said. "She's been to the shops, she's been to the growers, she's trying to learn what's out there while at the same time listening to those who are not part of industry. That's what you are supposed to do."
Wool said he felt that there should be two industry seats on the board and that the board lacked balance.
When asked about the vote against her nomination Wednesday evening, Stiver simply expressed gratitude.
"I would like to thank those who spoke such kind words in favor of my nomination and thank the governor for the opportunity," Stiver said in a phone call with the Daily News-Miner.
Stiver was one of two Dunleavy appointees to the marijuana board, the other being Lt. Christopher Jaime, an Alaska Wildlife Trooper from Soldotna, to fill the public safety seat. Jaime was confirmed Wednesday.
Stiver would have filled a general public seat but would replace former board member and industry official Brandon Emmett, who said he was removed from the board by Dunleavy in January. Emmett held one of the two industry seats at the time.
The law creating the Marijuana Control Board designated that the board would be made up of five seats representing public safety, health, rural Alaska, industry and that the final seat could either be held by a second industry representative or by a member of the general public. Up until this point the board had two industry officials. Now the board will have one industry representative and one member of the general public.
With Stiver's rejection, Dunleavy will be tasked with putting forward a new appointment for the empty seat.
Contact staff writer Erin McGroarty at 459-7544. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/FDNMpolitics.