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Alaska’s Hemp Industry Pilot Program Dies After Governor Cuts Funding

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Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy withdrew state funding from the recently established hemp industry pilot program. One of the main reasons Governor Dunleavy justified cutting $375,000 in funding was that, “currently there is no existing industry to support a state funded program.”

Defunding Hemp Farms

Following the defunding of the hemp industry pilot program, Alaska’s Department of Natural Resources destroyed approximately 1,000 hemp plants located at the Plant Material Center cultivation facility in Palmer. With virtually no financial backing, they were forced to layoff employees and no longer had enough staff to care for the crops.

The hemp industry pilot program was established following the approval of Senate Bill 6 in 2017 and received an unanimous vote in the House last year. Previous Governor Bill Walker signed the legislation that was hailed by Alaska’s farming community and many were hopeful that the new pilot program would create more jobs.

The bill was originally developed in tandem with a fiscal note that stipulated all application and registration fees paid by cultivators would reimburse any funds paid by the state to get the program off the ground. The Natural Resources Department estimated at least 25 farms would register to cultivate hemp in the first year but didn’t get around to issuing the proposed regulations to govern the program until May 31st.

Hemp Industry Job Loss

Owner of Alaska Cannabis Exchange, Aaron Ralph, was hoping the hemp bill would lower the costs of CBD oil since he currently pays $165 for a 60-day supply from Colorado hemp manufacturers. Ralph said he had high hopes for the program and was excited about sourcing the oil from Alaska which would reduce the product’s cost.

“It’s just kind of disappointing, because our goal was always to be able to produce Alaska’s products in Alaska. I see this as jobs lost for the state,” Ralph explained.

Dunleavy’s hemp industry program cut didn’t stop there but was part of a larger action that closed two of the four PMC greenhouses and laid off 17 Division of Agriculture employees – over half of its workforce.

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