- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 4, 2015

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - Lawmakers discussed Wednesday who would sit on a new marijuana board and what it might cost the state, during a first hearing on a bill that would create a new regulatory body.

Gov. Bill Walker introduced companion bills in the House and Senate to create a five-member marijuana board that would share staff and resources with the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Board. It was discussed Wednesday in the House Labor and Commerce Committee.

The board would include a member each from the public safety and health sectors; one from a rural area; one or two from the marijuana industry; and one or two from the general public.

State commerce department liaison Micaela Fowler said that for now, the industry members would likely be people who helped pass the intiative or lobby on behalf of a new commercial marijuana industry. They will not be people from the illegal marijuana industry, Fowler said.

The costs associated with the board are estimated at $1.6 million for the upcoming fiscal year.

Cynthia Franklin, executive director of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, said that ultimately her agency wants six new staff members focused on marijuana. Two would be hired this fiscal year if a supplemental budget request is approved, and four more would be hired in the next fiscal year, Franklin said. The agency currently has 10 employees who deal with licensing and enforcement for alcohol.

The budget also includes $500,000 for a database project so that marijuana could be tracked from legal cultivation to retail sales. Franklin said that is, in part, to ensure that black-market pot doesn’t enter the legal market.

The Alcoholic Beverage Control Board currently is mostly paper-based, she said, but other states have seen a high demand for marijuana-related data, and an electronic system can help facilitate those requests.

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