First marijuana dispensary in Haines opens

The Winter Greens store front on Beach Road. (Photo by Henry Leasia/KHNS)

Marijuana can now be purchased legally in Haines. Winter Greens, the borough’s first recreational marijuana dispensary, opened its doors to the public Tuesday afternoon.

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When tourists arrive in Haines on a cruise ship, the first thing they see as they leave the boat are the local businesses facing the harbor along Beach Road. There are places to rent bikes, buy souvenirs and book tickets for the fast ferry to Skagway. They can also see a storefront trimmed with green, where marijuana is available for purchase to anyone over the age of 21.

At the door Shauna Adams checks IDs before customers enter the store. She and her husband Jason Adams moved to Haines to open the business. It has been a long process.

“So I guess about 2016, I came up for the first time,” Jason said. “My wife and I had grown and done a medical and commercial grow in Oregon, and we’d also helped with a dispensary and seen how that worked. We decided we needed to look for a spot. So I flew out and started walking around the streets of Haines with a measuring wheel, figuring out where boundaries were because we have to be 500 feet from a school or a church. And so we found this shop and we decided this is it. We can do it here.”

Jason says that initially, there was some skepticism about setting up a pot shop in Haines.

I think the negativity that we got two years ago when we started looking up here—there was a little bit of negativity. We were worried about it, and I think other people bringing their businesses here were also worried about that. And then nothing ever came of it,” Jason said. “The borough was one hundred percent behind us. I feel like any kind of complaints we had were answered quickly.”

Jason Adams and Ed Hesse serve a customer in Winter Greens. (Photo by Henry Leasia/KHNS)

Since then the Adams’ have spent a long time making sure that everything is above board, from licensing regulations to fire marshal permits. Adams says he understands that the state needs to set up careful regulations when it comes to this business. And how do those regulations compare to Oregon?

“Easier, but more strict. I would say less steps but more direct,” Jason said. “Even though it took a year to get certain paperwork through, I believe that once they started it went very fast. From the time they started on our turn to look at our paperwork, AMCO really stepped it up. They went very fast.”

Ed Hesse works at Winter Greens as well. He is a close friend of the Adams and worked on a growing operation in Brookings, Oregon. He says that while the cruise ships will bring in a lot of customers, so far they have seen a lot of locals.

“Everybody has been saying the same thing. We have been waiting, and we’re so glad that you’re open,” Hesse said. “I think Lutak Lumber is so happy that people won’t be calling them every day to see if we’re open.”

It is illegal to consume marijuana in public. However, there has been discussion across the state about creating spaces where customers can smoke on-site.

Alaska’s Marijuana Control Board will meet in August to discuss the issue. Jason Adams says that he would like to be able to provide a separate space for consumption in the future.

“I’m looking for a spot for on-site consumption, but you can’t use it here, so they would have to leave and go off-site,” Jason said. “And we’re searching for that, and then how that would work as a business plan because right now liability-wise it’s very hard to figure out.”

At the moment Winter Greens is collecting data to figure out what their hours should be. However, Jason says they do plan to stay open in the winter.

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