by Whitney Branshaw in Anchorage Press
It’s June 9, 2016 and I’m sitting in on the Marijuana Control Board Meeting. The first licenses are about to be granted for testing facilities and the first wave of commercial cultivation of cannabis in our great state is upon us. (We’re about to make history, people. The shit is about to go down.) I’m flanked by my close friends Leif and Art Abel, two of the co-founders of Greatland Ganja, LLC. Their license is up for approval today. There’s a palpable tension in the room. People are excited, but radiating a nervous energy that comes with putting everything you have on the line to buy into an unknown market on opening day. I’m looking around anxiously, still waiting for the Feds to bust in and yell, “Just fucking kidding everyone! You will not have regulated cannabis. Joke’s on you.” This thinking pattern is a result of being raised in a prohibitionist era. But no one busts in and the meeting starts.
The first testing facility is approved, then the second. These approvals are met with loud cheers from the audience and heavy sighs of relief. The cultivation approvals start and the men of Greatland Ganja move to the front of the room and take their seats at the table alongside their attorney, Jana Weltzin. They answer a few questions and the application is hailed as complete with few corrections. The board votes and the answer is a unanimous “yes.” After they’re approved, I stand and move toward the aisle to greet them with a congratulatory embrace. They did it. We did it. The state has done it. The cannabis industry in Alaska is about to be operational. Seymour Abel, the eldest co-founder of Greatland Ganja, leans in for a hug, flashing his wide smile and whispers in my ear, “I can’t wait to get these plants in the ground. Let’s get going, girl. The real work starts now.”