Each year, new businesses come to Talkeetna. This year, with the passage of Ballot Measure 2 in 2014, one business owner is looking to get in on one of the state’s biggest potential growth industries. KTNA’s Phillip Manning has more.
Take a moment and picture the kind of person you think would want to open a marijuana dispensary in Downtown Talkeetna. Odds are that Joe McAneney is not what you imagined. Joe is clean-shaven with short hair and a business-like attitude. When we meet at the shop formerly known as The Chocolate Corner at the end of Main Street, he and his business partner Dan Nelson are taking a break from renovating the interior of the building.
Joe McAneney realizes he may not be exactly what people picture in someone looking to get into the cannabis industry.
“We think about the typical persona as a ‘stoner,’ someone who’s wearing a Bob Marley flag and has long dreadlocks. That’s great. There’s a lot of great people out there who personify that.”
McAneney says that stereotype is fading as cannabis becomes more mainstream and less taboo.
“You have a lot of people: doctors, lawyers, seniors, retired people, whatever, who are actually avid cannabis users. They’re growing cannabis. It’s a science behind it. They’re learning about all the different terpenes, and the strains, and how they can apply them to different medical disorders, and treatment, and for pure recreation. They like to smoke a joint at night instead of having a glass of scotch or something.”
Joe McAneney hopes to cater to that growing cross-section of Americans with his shop, which he has named “The High Expedition.” Joe and Dan are currently involved in the state licensing process. The current plan is to begin carrying cannabis products in the fall, but the shop could open as early as April for non-marijuana products. Joe says they hope to work with local artisans of all types both before and after beginning to sell cannabis. Even before marijuana hits the shelves, however, potential customers will have to be at least 21 to enter.
McAneney says the reception has largely been positive. That bore out at the February meeting of the Talkeetna Community Council, where questions from the audience were about opening dates and the naming of strains. Still, Joe says some people, especially parents, have concerns.
“I’ve had some real constructive conversations with people who might not have been so open to the idea, especially some of the fears like candy edibles and things like that. When I tell them that I’m not even looking to carry those products, that’s a reassurance to them.”
The candy edibles Joe refers to are things like gummy bears and infused candy bars that are hard to distinguish from the kind you might buy at the grocery store. He says, while not carrying those could cost some profit, that it’s more important to be responsible and not open the door to a potential incident involving mistaken identity of a cannabis-infused product.
“The more that these initial business, like us as we open, [are] considerate and we’re aware of these issues–if we mitigate those it will really help the cause down the road.”
There are more hurdles than local reception and state licensing before Joe and Dan can begin selling cannabis. Specifically, there are two potential measures at the borough level that could stop the business before it starts. One is a vote of the people living outside of the cities within the borough. That vote comes in October. The other potential impediment is restrictions on the borough permit that would be required for any marijuana business. The Mat-Su Borough Assembly is scheduled to take that issue up at the beginning of next month. As that decision gets closer, KTNA will provide addition