Pubdate: Wed, 20 Apr 2016
Source: Alaska Dispatch News (AK)
Copyright: 2016 Alaska Dispatch Publishing
Note: Anchorage Daily News until July '14
Author: Annie Zak


Opening the door at Pot Luck Events, the inconspicuous marijuana 
social club not far from Anchorage's downtown Hilton, can be an 
intense welcome on a busy night. A heavy aroma hits you in the face: 
pungent, hazy air.

On Saturday, the place teemed with pot lovers and hopeful marijuana 
entrepreneurs alike for the smoky release party of ArcticBlue, a 
strain of pot from Anchorage cultivator ArcticBlue Farms. People 
gathered in a corner to smoke dabs -- highly concentrated marijuana 
- -- or lounged in low-slung chairs to share joints and bowls under dim 
lights and a disco ball.

ArcticBlue doled out free marijuana to smoke and edibles to snack on, 
in celebration of the strain getting listed on weed review website Leafly.

Dave Nyberg, 66, is one of the owners of ArcticBlue Farms. He 
developed the blueberry strain about four years ago and says it helps 
with his aches and pains from health issues over the years. Now, 
although he said he isn't doing this for the money, he sees a 
business opportunity.

"What we're hoping is, when all the cruise ships come in, they'll 
want an Alaskan strain," said Nyberg, who kept his wide-brimmed hat 
and sunglasses on inside the club.

Paintings and vintage-looking marijuana posters adorn Pot Luck's 
walls, and a VIP room in the back boasts blacklights. Patrons get 
free candy from the bar (where no alcohol is served), and can pay for 
other snacks while they share weed with the bartender.

But despite having some indicators of typical stoner culture, Pot 
Luck is trying to break through those stereotypes.

"We're trying to normalize it," said Theresa Collins, one of the 
owners. She said the club now has more than 3,500 paying members, 
about a year after its opening in March 2015.

Saturday's crowd was diverse in race, age and background. People in 
button-downs and ties mixed with others in sweatshirts and jeans. 
Collins said the youngest Pot Luck member is 21 and the oldest is 78.

"The first instinct is judging, but there's more to it," said Peteri 
Faaaliga, 27, a volunteer working Saturday's party. She said she's 
noticed a lot of people who come to Pot Luck to get access to 
marijuana for medical uses.

"I'm probably the only Polynesian that comes in here all the time, 
and I'm trying to reach out to my community, and let them know 
there's more ways to think of it than getting high," she said.

Selling marijuana isn't allowed at Pot Luck, but people are allowed 
to share, smoke and consume. Marijuana social clubs in Alaska are 
currently straddling an unclear legal area, the Alaska Journal of 
Commerce recently reported.

Meanwhile, marijuana businesses have applied for licenses that are 
expected to be granted later this year. ArcticBlue's name isn't on 
the list of applicants because, Nyberg said, they had to apply under 
a different name. He wouldn't say what that name is.

"Once you apply," he said, "you can't give out any free samples."

Hosting a strain release party is one way to make a name visible in a 
market that will soon be teeming with new companies trying to 
establish their brands in Alaska. And plenty of people showed up 
Saturday with a focus on networking.

"We've been looking for new clients tonight, been making ourselves 
known," said Bobby Burns, owner of AkCannaBiz, a Palmer marketing 
firm that's working with about five marijuana companies.

Cameron Erickson, 40, was at Pot Luck to partake, but also to meet 
with other people who work in the industry. He wants to develop a 
business selling edibles.

"For the first time, there's a place where people can come and talk 
about the industry," he said, passing a joint around a standing table.

Those who prefer pot over alcohol were also sure to point out the 
differences between the vibe at Pot Luck and the vibe at a bar.

"That's what makes it the best -- you don't get the drunken idiots," 
said Lamond Roberts, 34, who lives in Anchorage and has been a member 
of Pot Luck for about a year.

Roberts said his children have asthma, which means he can't smoke in 
the house. He said he used to smoke on the porch, and now the club 
has provided him with a place to go.

"A lot of people come here to get medicated after a stressful week. 
It's better than going out and getting drunk," he said, exhaling a 
mouthful of dense smoke from a strawberry-banana joint.

He and his friend, Solomona Lesu, who was visiting from Barrow, ate 
various edibles and smoked all through Saturday evening. But between 
that and the sheer amount of pot being smoked around them in an 
enclosed area, did they worry about getting too high?

"It's not possible," Roberts said, ordering an ice cream sandwich from the bar.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said that 
AkCannaBiz is based in Wasilla. It is currently based in Palmer.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom