Alaska legalized recreational marijuana in 2014. It’s a new source of revenue for Alaska, generating $10.8 million dollars in taxes last year. Now, Dillingham gets a slice of the pie with the opening of Bristol Bay Bud Company. It is the first marijuana retailer in the region.
Bristol Bay Bud Company is preparing for its opening weekend. Richard Allen, a managing partner at the shop, walks through their staggering inventory.
Japanese fishing floats hang from beaded multi-colored netting, furs from a local trapper hang in the corners. The sun illuminates stained glass salmon resting along the windowsill. Allen is excited, and ready to serve the Bristol Bay.
“We can come in and make a bunch of money," he said. "I’m here for the people, the people tell me and Heather what they want and I’m going to get it to them.”
Allen is one of four owners. The others are Heather Allen, his wife, and friends Gordon and Sue Isaac. Gordon said the marijuana retail store is two and a half years in the making.
“Richard and Heather were talking about starting a legal grow facility in the valley," he said. "We kind of decided to get into that with them, mostly as financial partners. Shortly thereafter, we started talking about there’s no store in Dillingham, maybe we should do a store in Dillingham.”
The process of preparing the store went quickly, but the strains of Alaska’s regulations for operating a marijuana retailer proved to be an uphill battle.
Heather Allen said all marijuana products in the store are tracked with an identifier and must be reported through the Marijuana Enforcement Tracking Reporting and Compliance system.
“We literally follow every bit of cannabis," she said. "From the point of it becoming a viable clone, which happens at 8 inches, all the way to the jar of weed that we sell out of in the store... They track every single crumb.”
Other regulations require that no one under the age of 21 is permitted to purchase pot and that all transactions are cash only. The latter is an industry standard across the country, as marijuana is still illegal on the federal level.
The store is required to have video surveillance that can recognize a person’s face from up to 25 feet away. They also cannot sell marijuana to anyone who comes to the store intoxicated. Allen said if they fail to adhere to the regulations, the store can be shut down.
"There’s a lot of very specific logistics that have to be worked out," she said. "Until we got it all here in front of our face did we realize how many more steps that we had than just the two and a half year trek it took us to get the licensing and everything approved to where we are today."
The retail shop serves as a new revenue source for the city. The six percent sales tax on marijuana will contribute to the general sales revenue fund. However, Allen said she expects that to change after six months to match the 10% alcohol and tobacco sales tax.
“I really feel like we’re going to finally generate some really good revenue," she said. "We won’t have to solely depend on the stores, the liquor store, the restaurants and the B&Bs to support our city.”
The Bristol Bay Bud Company expects their cultivation center in operation within a couple months. For every pound of marijuana, The center will generate $800 dollars in taxes. With the store officially open, the owners are hoping for greener pastures.