Steven Cehula, who plans on working in the industry, said the proposed rules for occupational licensing ‘are incongruent with the voice of the people and unfair.’ Pictured: Grace Sisti of Colorado Harvest and Evergreen Apothecary meets job seekers attending a marijuana industry job fair hosted by Open Vape, a vaporizer company, in Downtown Denver, Thursday March 13, 2014. (Brennan Linsley, The Associated Press)

Why proposed rules for marijuana jobs in Alaska’s pot shops are being criticized

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Alaska’s growing marijuana industry is attracting workers, but proposed regulations for employees that many have deemed too harsh may keep industry hopefuls from entering the field.

State Marijuana Control Board Chairman Peter Mlynarik said the rules are meant to ensure new hires have some sort of background check. But critics question why they are inconsistent with those required for similar worker permits for Alaska’s alcohol businesses.

Steven Cehula, who plans on working in the industry, said the proposed rules for occupational licensing “are incongruent with the voice of the people and unfair.”

“This is limiting opportunities for employment without any tangible benefit for the state or city. Disqualifying potential cannabis workers for something that would not preclude them from working in the alcohol or tobacco industry simply doesn’t make sense,” Cehulda told the Alaska Journal of Commerce.

Under the draft regulations, Alaskans can’t obtain a marijuana handler’s permit if they have a felony conviction in the last five years, have been convicted of illegally selling alcohol in the last five years or have been convicted of a misdemeanor crime involving violence, weapons, dishonesty, or a controlled substance.

The rules differ from employee licensing requirements for Alaska’s alcohol businesses, which require new hires to complete training for an Alcohol Professionals card, also known as a TAP card.

Applicants for the card have no criminal restrictions at all, according to Kirsten Myles, vice president of operations for the Cabaret, Hotel, Restaurant, and Retail Association. The lobbying organization represents alcohol and hospitality business interests in Alaska.

Myles said placing too many hiring restrictions on marijuana dispensaries is bad for business.

“It doesn’t make any sense,” she said. “It’s hard enough to find good employees for any business.”

Alaska’s proposed rules differ from those implemented in other states that have legalized marijuana.

Colorado’s application for a permit says the state will deny applicants with any conviction for a controlled substance-related felony over the last 10 years or any felony over the last five years. The state does not automatically exclude those with convictions from holding an occupational license, as compared to Alaska’s draft regulations, which rule out applicants based on certain misdemeanors.

The Oregon Liquor Control Commission says applicants may not be eligible for marijuana worker permits if they have been convicted of a felony involving controlled substances, marijuana, violence, theft, fraud or forgery in the last three years. Oregon only tracks one misdemeanor for marijuana workers, unlawful delivery of marijuana, in the last three years.

The state of Washington doesn’t require workers in the marijuana industry to obtain any type of occupational licensing.

While Alaska’s draft regulations have drawn criticism from industry organizations, including the Anchorage Cannabis Business Association, the state has not yet decided on whether to adopt them.

“It’s still in draft form,” Mlynarik said. “We’ll have to see how it plays out at the end.”

The board is expected to review the matter at a Friday meeting in Anchorage.


Information from: (Anchorage) Alaska Journal of Commerce