Bethel's First Marijuana Store Scheduled To Open This Month

Dec 11, 2019

ALASKAbuds owner Nick Miller has his store set up, minus the marijuana products. Once he passes his final state inspection, he expects to open later this month.
Credit Greg Kim / KYUK

In a few weeks, Bethel’s first marijuana store will open its doors. ALASKAbuds is located in the same building as Stan’s Barbershop and Bethel Family Dental Clinic. Two months ago, 47% of Bethel voters wanted to prohibit marijuana sales through marijuana local option. KYUK asked ALASKAbuds’ owner if those results affect how he’s preparing to open.

Inside the store, ALASKAbuds owner Nick Miller sits behind glass counters filled with pipes and rolling papers. Behind him are shelves of bongs, ,but the rest of the store is empty. Miller says that the actual marijuana will arrive after the final state inspection on Wednesday, Dec. 11.

“This is the inspection they call "the empty shelf inspection." They come in and make sure the facility is what you said it’s going to be,” Miller said.

After that, Miller says that he’ll open in another 10 days.  

Asked what he thought of the recent election results, where 47% of voters wanted to prohibit marijuana sales, Miller says that he understands that people are wary, but he says that the election results also show that people are curious as to what legal marijuana sales will look like.

“They’re giving us an opportunity to prove we’re good business neighbors, and that’s exactly what we’re going to do,” Miller said.

Miller says that starts with security. 

“Look around. There isn’t one inch of this facility that isn’t covered by video. Obviously, it’s monitored and alarmed 24 hours a day,” Miller said.

More than theft, he’s concerned about preventing a secondary market.

“Where they’re purchasing it at a legal retail store and transporting it out to some of the other villages,” Miller said.

There are state limits restricting an individual to purchasing one ounce of marijuana flower per day. However, Miller says that if someone purchases an ounce a day for five days in a row, the store would have a conversation with that customer.  

“I don’t know what steps we would take next, but we would definitely not just stop by talking to the individual,” Miller said.

Plus, an ounce a day would be pretty expensive. Miller says that costs will be a dollar or two higher per gram than they would run in Anchorage, due to transportation. In addition, there’s a 15% city sales tax.

Aside from regular marijuana, Miller says that ALASKAbuds will carry pre-rolled joints, edibles, pipes, and CBD products, which don’t contain THC.

“Anything that you can think of that you would consider a part of the cannabis world, we’ll have it here,” Miller said.

Ahead of opening, Miller is still looking for people who want to be "budtenders." Budtenders are sales people who can help customers with their marijuana purchases, and he needs seven or eight of them. That will be the final step for Miller, who plans to open ALASKAbuds in December 2019.