Casey Dschaak of Dillingham governor's pick for Marijuana Control Board

Feb 3, 2020

Dschaak said he sees the marijuana industry as a business like any other, and will approach issues like on-site consumption on a case-by-case basis.

Products on display at Bristol Bay Bud Company in Dillingham, Friday, Jan. 31, 2020.
Credit KDLG/Isabelle Ross

Since Alaska legalized recreational marijuana in 2014, the state has been working to regulate it. This spring, Casey Dschaak will be one of the people charged with continuing those efforts.

“I look at marijuana as, it’s a new industry. The Lower 48’s trying to figure out a way to regulate it. We’re trying to figure out a way to regulate it. So every issue that comes up is new,” he said.

Alaska just approved the first licenses for on-site marijuana consumption last week. Dschaak said he sees the marijuana industry as a business like any other, and that he would consider issues like on-site consumption on a case-by-case basis. 

“Whether or not they’re doing on-site consumption or not. The distances from different buildings. Some of those regulations could be posing problems to the industry as well. And so it’s really a balance between society at large and the industry. But each instance would be unique,” he said.

The governor removed Mark Springer of Bethel, who previously filled the board’s rural seat and was also the chairman. A critic of Dunleavy, Springer supports the recall effort. 

While on the board, Springer grappled with the question of on-site consumption for over two years, as he told KYUK last week.

“Toking up was the big issue," he said. "The Lung Association, Heart Association, Cancer Society, they said how are you going to do this? How are you going to protect employees from unintended inhalation of combustion products?”

The board answered those concerns by developing a series of regulations, like requiring shops to have a ventilation system and a smoke-free area. Local governments also have the option to opt out of on-site consumption. Dschaak said the financial burden should be shouldered by the industry.

“You want to have the right regulations in place to where the property owners aren’t paying for if there happen to be increased infrastructure that goes on, increased regulators, hiring new people to assist in regulating the industry.”

Heather Allen is a co-owner of Bristol Bay Bud Company, a pot shop that opened last spring in Dillingham. She said there’s a lot of buzz surrounding Alaska’s new rule allowing on-site consumption, and customers have been asking about it at the store. But she said for her shop right now, the numbers don’t add up.

“We don’t have the space, the cost would be crazy. Although wouldn’t it be cool to have a weed lounge here?” she said, adding that she is excited to have a Bristol Bay resident on the board. 

The seat opens in March. If the legislature approves Dschaak’s appointment, his first meeting will be in April.

Contact the author at isabelle@kdlg.org or 907-842-2200