Organizers of a cannabis festival in Alaska — Alaska Hempfest — are facing investigation for allowing its adult participants to consume marijuana in public. They are also facing possible fine.
Alaska Hempfest was a free event held in Wasilla on June 22-24. An estimated 1,500 people attended the three-day festival this year.
Among those who were present at the festival were representatives from the Alaska Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office. The representatives also took pictures of the event.
Nordica Friedrich, Alaska Hempfest’s communication and music director, was notified through e-mail that an investigation was underway. She was also informed about the marijuana control office recommending that the organizers pay a fine.
Friedrich hosted the festival with her mother, Niki Raapana.
Already in its third year, Alaska Hempfest was held on a private property. It featured vendors, speakers, and live music.
There was also an enclosed tent made accessible to attendees who were over 21 years old and wanted to consume pot.
The problem? While marijuana is legal in Alaska, the public consumption of cannabis is prohibited by state law and industry regulations.
Organizer defends: I did nothing wrong
According to Friedrich, she does not believe she did anything wrong. She compared the tent to a beer garden featured at Alaska fairs and other public events.
She also said “Alaskans voted to regulate cannabis like alcohol.” Regulatory officials, she pointed out, should bring cannabis industry rules in line with the rules applied to alcohol.
People, she added, would never go to a wine or beer festival and just talk about wine and beer and look at their pictures.
According to the director of the Alaska Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office, Erika McConnell, she indicated in her e-mail that the amount of the fine is yet to be determined. A written report on the probe will be available before the marijuana control board’s next meeting, which will begin on August 15.
McConnell said that she will be asking the board to assess a civil fine that is similar to what they imposed for the Cannabis Classic, a different case that occured in May. In that case, the board imposed fines that totalled $20,000 and suspended $15,000.
When it comes to criminal cases, fines are suspended provided that the offender does not commit the same offense again. The penalties were based on allegations related to illegal sales and public consumption.
The Cannabis Classic happened in Anchorage at a former social club. The participants were required to pay a $350 fee for a cannabis class. The fee is inclusive of the weed they will be using for the class.