Thousands of Dollars in Cannabis Oil Seized from Pot Dispensaries In Alaska

By Paul Gaita 02/20/17

The cannabidiol was seized from seven shops in cities across the state as part of an "ongoing investigation." 

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Owners of several marijuana retail stores in Alaska were surprised on February 9 by law enforcement officers, who seized thousands of dollars' worth of items containing cannabidiol (CBD) they claimed were in violation of regulations that require such products to be tested by the state.

Though federal law makes hemp oil which contains less than .03% THC legal in all 50 states, investigators from the Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office (AMCO) descended on seven shops in cities across the state, including Anchorage and Wasilla, and seized the items as part of an "ongoing investigation," as described in a press release issued that same day by Sara Chambers, acting director of the AMCO.

Though specific details of the investigation were not revealed, a second press release, issued on February 10, explained that United States Post Office employees had tipped off the AMCO officers about the presence of international packages that contained over 1,000 vials of CBD oil, some of which were leaking.

When AMCO officers examined the packages, they found 20 unmarked vials containing a substance that was deemed "unknown" in a shipment containing items for human consumption, such as edibles, which constituted "a potential public health and safety risk," according to Chapman.

Under the 2014 Alaska statute AS 17.38, products derived from marijuana, including oil with any particular composition of CBD or THC, can only be regulated according to Alaskan law. Due to the overseas origin of the vials, AMCO investigators were dispatched to the aforementioned seven retail locations, where they inventoried and then took possession of items containing CBD oil. 

According to AMCO Chief Investigator James Hoelscher, several of the retailers were unaware that CBD oil was a regulated product. Lily Bosshart, who owns the Anchorage retail shop Dankorage, said the incident was the first time she'd heard that the product was illegal in Alaska without state regulation. "It was my understanding that hemp products and this product in particular were okay," 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."

But as Hoelscher noted, "If there is a question about whether a product is legal to sell, all licensees need to do is pick up the phone."

Retailers at the seven shops visited by AMCO investigators were informed that they would be notified in writing about the next phase of the investigation, and will meet with the Alaska Marijuana Control Board. But the confusion that has arisen around the legality of CBD in Alaska remains intact, even as officials attempt to determine the exact nature of the contents of the vials.

"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," said Harriet Milks, legal counsel to AMCO. "If it's not marijuana under our law, that's a different story."

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, Amazon.com and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites. 

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