What ever happened to the promise of pot cafes in Alaska?

Alaska legalized cannabis in 2014, but pot cafes were not allowed to open until 2018. The demand for these establishments has been so high that some are now opening illegally.

The good titrations cafe is a place where people can go to smoke, vape, and sip cannabis in a safe and controlled environment. In Alaska, this was the promise of pot cafes. Now that they are legal, what happened?


A former Chili’s restaurant in Fairbanks is the only place in Alaska where you can watch a football game indoors, get a smoothie, and light up a joint.

“We have groups of people coming in to watch basketball, rugby, the Olympic wrestling team, and smoke a doobie,” Brandon Emmett, one of the proprietors of Good Titrations, the state’s lone cannabis café, said.

And it’s a cafe: The lounge serves a complete coffee and restaurant menu, as well as marijuana, according to Emmett.

Brandon Emmett, owner and president of Good Titrations, a cannabis café and coffee business in Fairbanks, Alaska, on Wednesday, October 6, 2021. The state’s first on-site marijuana use facility also contains a growing facility and a retail shop. Good Titrations began as a cannabis concentrate manufacturing facility, with plans to expand to include a large-scale commercial growing business.

Despite the fact that Good Titrations already had other cannabis businesses up and running, the lounge didn’t open until April 20 this year. It wasn’t simple to get to that stage. According to Emmett, the company paid approximately $375,000 to adapt its facility to satisfy all of the criteria outlined in state regulations regulating on-site drinking, which included an expensive air filtering system.

Entrepreneurs and companies throughout the state have been working for years to establish marijuana cafés where cannabis may be used on-site. However, despite the fact that other parts of the business have developed and normalized in the almost seven years after Alaskans chose to regulate cannabis like alcohol, on-site use has remained stubbornly out of reach.

The most important factor is municipal regulations and zoning.

Bruce Schulte, a member of the Marijuana Control Board, stated, “There are simply so many limitations.”

A smoking prohibition in workplaces enacted by the Legislature in 2018 sits underneath the state framework for establishing an on-site consumption business. According to Schulte, there remain substantial obstacles to cannabis companies, despite the fact that it has carve-outs. So far, he added, just a few operators have filed for the state’s license. (There is no way to search for on-site consumption endorsements on a state website listing cannabis businesses.)

Emmett was in a unique position with Good Titrations since he had served on the Marijuana Control Board at a time when the board was drafting the complex regulations for indoor cannabis use.

“I understood what was coming while the rules were being drafted,” Emmett added. “I was able to see the path.”

Cannabis companies are heavily regulated, and municipal zoning and land-use regulations have played a significant influence in determining where stores and growing facilities may be located.

“Zoning is a major barrier, particularly in Anchorage,” Schulte said.

One of the state’s indoor smoking exemptions is that the establishment must be in a free-standing structure, which rules out stores in strip malls, where many cannabis businesses presently operate. Because the sector operates in a legal gray area, companies must utilize real-estate assets that are held wholly rather than mortgaged via a bank. These are often older structures, requiring even more costly renovations to install state-mandated high-grade air filtration systems.

While there will undoubtedly be exceptions, Schulte believes that the combination of complex laws and restrictive municipal policies will keep marijuana cafés in short supply, even if a few do operate in the coming years.

“In Alaska, we’re not going to have that Amsterdam impact for the foreseeable future,” he added.

When it comes to on-site use, other states that have legalized recreational cannabis are in a similar situation. Specifically, a befuddling jumble of municipal, state, and federal laws that are often at conflict, prompting business owners and entrepreneurs to push the envelope with innovative methods for allowing customers to drink on-site while they wait for more complete legislation.

Original Cannabis Cafe in West Hollywood, California, opened in 2019 and is generally regarded as the first cannabis lounge in the United States, with a complete farm-to-table cuisine running concurrently. After legislators passed a statewide framework last summer, Nevada is set to license up to 20 establishments for on-site drinking, which may result in many cafés or clubs opening their doors before the end of the year. There are a number of business models in place in Colorado to allow individuals to use cannabis inside, ranging from private clubs that charge membership fees to cannabis-friendly bed-and-breakfasts to The International Church of Cannabis.

COVID-19, another unexpected stumbling block for marijuana lounges in Alaska, has thrown the industry’s preparations into disarray.

“On-site consumption was not possible as soon as the on-site program started and their rules were established because we had this pandemic,” said Jana Weltzin, a lawyer who represents a number of cannabis companies throughout the state, including Good Titrations.

Businesses that spent 2019 researching the new on-site consumption regulations were hit with closures, hunker-down warnings, and prohibitions on indoor gatherings in 2020.

The second surprise in 2020 was a municipal ballot item in Anchorage, which asked voters if cannabis shops should be exempt from the city’s strict indoor smoking prohibition. Customers would not be permitted to smoke or vape cannabis products if a company were to open for on-site use, since the idea was rejected by a large majority.

“You could do on-site edibles,” Weltzin added, “but I simply don’t believe anybody would do it.” “From my viewpoint, it’ll be difficult to make that work financially.”

Jane Stinson came to the same conclusion.

Stinson, one of the owners of Enlighten Alaska in Anchorage, stated, “It’s so restricted that it’s hardly worth putting money into.” She claims that no one she has talked with in the municipality’s cannabis business sector is considering an on-site endorsement.

“In Anchorage, they only allow us to have foods. So, who wants to simply sit and eat 5 milligrams of a cookie or whatever and do nothing?” Stinson had inquired. “We need to smoke.”

Some cannabis shops outside of the city are still finding out how to run an on-site business. Businesses that expect an influx of summer visitors, in particular, believe the financial arithmetic will work in their favor once COVID-19 worries subside and travel-hungry foreigners return to Alaska.

Joe McAneny, proprietor of High Expedition, a cannabis store in the center of Talkeetna, stated, “We’re simply going to have such a high volume traveling through there that a lounge was always part of my business strategy.”

McAneny had planned to begin construction on a new facility on an empty site near his business just before the pandemic struck. He put his ideas on hold, but intends to begin construction on a two-story building that can accommodate live events next spring. A more laid-back lounge with a museum style, reflecting some of Talkeetna’s history and position in mountaineering, as well as big windows with a clear view of Denali, would be included in the structure.

It won’t be inexpensive to build, decorate, and follow to stringent state laws for indoor marijuana use. The renovation is expected to cost about $500,000, according to McAneny.

Many in the cannabis business aspire for something similar in Southeast Alaska, where cruise ships drop tourists off in downtown retail areas with cannabis for sale but nowhere to legally consume it.

“I believe it’s crucial for your business strategy if you’re in a tourist destination like me,” McAneny added.

The outdoor coffee shops near me was a promise that seemed to be fulfilled in the beginning of 2018. Now, it seems like the promise is dying out.

Related Tags

  • fairbanks on site consumption
  • small coffee shops near me
  • cute cafe near me