“We had 35,000 square feet of legal greenhouses and 300 square feet of illegal marijuana,” said Collette, who is 69, but said he doesn’t feel his age. He dresses in washed jeans and sneakers and carries a flip phone. Thin-rim round glasses rest on his wrinkled nose. Inside, his house is darkly lit, sparsely decorated with model airplanes and old photos of his children.
However, for over a decade Collette wasn’t allowed to step into the place he called home. In 1992, his house and business were raided by state and federal authorities, led by the Drug Enforcement Administration. He served eight and a half years of an 11-year sentence for cannabis-related crimes and was released in early 2003. Since then, Collette has stayed out of the cannabis industry, though that may change now that businesses are legal in the state.
Collette's was released from prison in 2003 after serving more than 8 years of an 11-year sentence for cannabis-related crimes. (Photo by Sean Logan | News21)
Collette is now concerned about how the new market might influence the state’s cannabis community and values. He said he would prefer it to be a casual exchange as opposed to a commercial transaction.
“I am looking for the time where it's of no consequence,” said Collette. “It never has been a big deal and it shouldn't be a big deal in the future.”
Sitting behind a large, cluttered desk on the second floor of the Fairbanks Police Department, Brad Johnson explained why passing Senate Bill 30, dubbed the “marijuana crime bill,” was important for law enforcement. In front of him, a postcard in a small photo frame reads, “Dare to soar.” Johnson is the president of the Alaska Association of Chiefs of Police.
The ballot initiative has legalized certain aspects of marijuana use and marijuana possession, he says, but existing state statutes haven't changed. “We have statutory conflict. [Cannabis] remains a controlled substance, by statute. The penalties for possession, use, sale, manufacture as written prior to the ballot initiative remain in effect,” he said.
In this year’s legislative session, the state had difficulty balancing the concerns of its conservative majority while honoring the will of its voters. House Bill 123, dealing with the creation of the MCB, was the only marijuana-related bill approved in the entire session.
“It's very difficult for the line officer right now because they have no clear guidance,” explained Johnson.
He said officers will rely on the Marijuana Control Board for regulatory guidance until the Legislature meets next year. But even then, he’s skeptical of what can be achieved without an outright correction of the statutes. It’s unclear whether the Legislature will arrange an emergency meeting later in 2015.
The deputy chief is especially worried about regulations for driving under the influence of drugs (DUID) offenses. Officers are not prepared to detect impaired drivers under the influence of marijuana, he says. There is nothing in Title 28, the statute dealing with motor vehicles, about cannabis intoxication in particular. Without guidelines each arrest will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.
“The next year is going to be very, very challenging.”
Cynthia Franklin walked about the office with intent, moving reports around before sitting behind her desk to answer the flurries of emails, one “ping” after another. Since taking the job as the director of the Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Board last September, it’s been a constant flow of questions, comments and interview requests flooding her inbox.
The initiative made the ABC Board responsible for adopting and implementing regulations relating to the cultivation, manufacture, and sale of cannabis until the MCB was created.