State raids cannabis shops, seizes CBD oil

Several retailers have confirmed that Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office enforcement seized thousands of dollars worth of imported cannabidiol oils on Feb. 9.

 

“The Marijuana Control Board and AMCO staff will be managing this developing situation with the utmost care and concern,” stated a release from Sara Chambers, the acting director of the Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office. “Specific details cannot be released at this time because of the ongoing investigation. Further details will be released as they become available to ensure that licensees and the public are fully educated and informed as to what the law requires concerning sale of marijuana products.”

Alaska statute specifies that CBD oils are indeed a marijuana product and therefore under the supervision of the Marijuana Control Board.

Federal laws, however, have caused problems for Alaska companies who have up until now assumed CBD products were separate from marijuana.

Cannabidiol, or CBD, is a non-psychoactive compound derived from hemp, often made into tinctures, lotions and other topical therapeutic products for pain management and even epilepsy treatment.

Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is the psychoactive compound that gets a person high — CBD products typically have a negligible THC content.

Alaska Cannabis Exchange is the source for much of Alaska’s CBD products. The products have only been available for two weeks.

Owner Aaron Ralph confirmed the company receives its CBD oils at the tail end of industrial hemp pilot programs in the Lower 48.

The resulting product is classified as an industrial hemp product under federal law, not as a marijuana product.

Bryant Thorpe, owner of Anchorage’s first retail establishment, Arctic Herbery, confirmed that enforcement staff took his CBD products, and that he was not notified of the seizure until it happened.

Lily Bosshart, owner of Anchorage retail shop Dankorage, said enforcement called her to warn not to remove any CBD products until they could arrive — they had showed up to the closed shop unannounced beforehand.

The seizures come from confusion about CBD products’ place in the Alaska regulatory structure.

Bosshart, along with several other retailers who had their CBD products seized, said this is the first she has heard about the product being illegal in Alaska.

“It was my understanding that hemp products and this product in particular were ok,” she said. “I was unaware that this would be an issue. I wouldn’t be selling it if I thought it would be a problem.”

Harriet Milks, AMCO’s legal counsel, said she was not fully aware of the circumstances around the seizures, but that she was aware of questions regarding CBD products as they came onto retail shelves in recent weeks.

“’What is this product? We need to find out what it is,’” she said. “If it’s a marijuana product under our law I think we have a problem because it doesn’t seem to be packaged or tested or tracked according to Alaska regulations…if it’s not marijuana under our law, that’s a different story.”

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration recently classified CBD as a Schedule I controlled substance alongside marijuana, but Alaska’s laws and federal laws governing the substance are apparently enough at odds for the Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office, or AMCO, to seize it from marijuana shops.

“As defined in statute and regulation, this oil meets the definition of ‘marijuana,’ ‘marijuana product,’ and ‘marijuana concentrate,’” according to the Feb. 9 press release from the Department of Commerce. “The Alaska Department of Law confirms that products derived from the marijuana plant are regulated under AS 17.38 and that there is no separate provision under state law that allows oil with any particular composition of CBD or THC to be regulated outside of AS 17.38 and 3 AAC 306.”

DJ Summers can be reached at daniel.summers@alaskajournal.com.

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