This week marks the final meeting where Bethel resident Mark Springer will chair the Alaska Marijuana Control Board. Gov. Mike Dunleavy chose not to reappoint Springer to another term. Springer talked to KYUK about the work he and other members of Alaska’s first Marijuana Control Board did to regulate what had been an illegal substance as it made the transition to a legal Alaska industry.
Springer says that at first it was just coming up with the basic regulations, which took a year.
“We ended up with nine chapters,” he remembered.
Springer said that the biggest issue was, and remains, “on-site consumption.” There were concerns about people smoking and driving, and about air pollution.
“Toking up was the big issue," Springer said. "The Lung Association, Heart Association, Cancer Society, they said, 'How are you going to do this? How are you going to protect employees from unintended inhalation of combustion products?'”
The regulations the board developed were tough.
“I’m really proud of being involved with now to, you know, be able to get a new industry started here in the state,” Springer said. “We’re very fortunate. I think the board was very diligent enough in what we did to not get any negative attention from the legislature."
The regulations were so tough that the board turned down its first application to create a place to consume marijuana. The board will have another crack at the issue soon, because there are two more applications in the works for on-site consumption.
“It took the board a couple of years, a couple of years and a half, to finally get some regulations written. But I think that we’re going to see some on-site consumption endorsements approved here pretty quickly. I think we have one coming up in our meeting in Juneau this week,” Springer said.
As he concludes his time on the board, Springer predicts major challenges ahead. He senses a change in the attitude toward what has been a fairly independent board. He sees pressures building, from both the state administration and legislators, to change the way the board operates.
“The job of the board is to protect their health, to protect the public safety,” Springer said. “The idea that any administration would be coming in and be saying, 'Well, we think we can do better than the legislature intended,' just, it just really bothers me.”
Springer’s term on the state Marijuana Control Board ends in March.
"It's been fun," he said.
The Alaskan who will replaces him on the board is Casey Dschaak from Dillingham.