- Associated Press - Monday, March 20, 2017

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - A Juneau man says he’s optimistic that he’ll open the city’s second marijuana retail shop soon.

Marijuana grower Paul Disdier told The Juneau Empire (https://bit.ly/2nD0NeE ) that he has faced challenges but expects his company, Fireweed Factory LLC, to open in the near future.

Disdier earned the city’s first conditional use permit in March 2016 after testimony on his behalf from marijuana cultivators James and Giono Barrett. He’s currently growing pot in a small warehouse near the Juneau International Airport.

Fireweed has secured a retail space in Juneau that’s ready to go, but Disdier still has a few hurdles to clear before he can start selling his products.

He said he lost dozens of marijuana plants after a light disrupted what was supposed to be a dark part of the growing cycle.

“These plants are really finicky to grow,” Disdier says. “You’d think they were just a weed and you put the seeds out and they pop up and grow like crazy, but they’re so hybrid now that they’re tricky to grow.”

Disdier has cleared the bundle of reviews, paperwork, inspections and interviews required by the state to earn approval for his business, but there are other challenges facing marijuana cultivators.

Banks are reluctant to work with someone growing a substance that, while legal under Alaska law, is considered illegal under federal law, said Loren Jones, a member of the Alaska Marijuana Control Board.

“That all relates to the fact that it’s still a Schedule 1 drug with the feds,” Jones said, “and they operate under federal rules, and under federal rules, you cannot, as a bank, further a criminal enterprise by allowing them to legitimately bank.”

Another issue is that there is no product testing lab in Juneau, although Southeast Alaska Laboratories LLC is close to being approved locally. For now, growers in Juneau must take their product to Anchorage for approval.

Disdier remains optimistic despite facing the cost of adding more LED lights and another heat pump to his operation.

“You’ve just got to take one step at a time,” he said. “We’ve been at this for a year now, with all the money going out and nothing coming in.”

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Information from: Juneau (Alaska) Empire, https://www.juneauempire.com


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