The Push for High-Potency is Skewing Alaska’s Marijuana Market

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Alaskan marijuana growers struggle to meet the new industry demand for high potency pot

Marijuana retailers in Alaska say the demand for high-potency product is skewing the market. Strains labeled as having more than 20 percent THC are priced 60 to 80 percent higher than other strains. Business owners say the obsession with potency has consequences for consumers and businesses.

Flowers with the highest concentrations of THC are often sold as “top-shelf” by retailers. While strains with 14 percent THC or less sell for around $10 per gram, strains that test at 20 percent sell for up to $18 per gram.

Alaska has just two labs, CannTest, and New Frontier Research, in operation testing marijuana for potency and impurities (three more are in the application process). The problem is, the two labs don’t always produce the same results. This is because Alaska has yet to set clear and enforceable standards for testing.

This means most potency labels in the state have some degree of inaccuracy. Accurate or not, the results are costing some growers their livelihood. While some experts call the potency of products “nonsense,” growers who receive products back from the lab with lower than 20 percent potency fear bankruptcy.

The state Marijuana Control Board wants to tackle the issue but their efforts have taken months to implement. The board voted in favor of preliminary recommendations to regulate marijuana potency testing, but their decision still awaits approval in the Department of Law.

The Marijuana Control Board wants to make marijuana testing the responsibility of the Department of Environmental Conservation, but that would require legislative approval.