Origins of the AMIA

Alaska Cannabis Growers Association
Alaska Cannabis Growers Association

DISCLOSURE: I have cleaned this up as much as possible. Sticking to the facts as much as possible. Not trying to hurt anybody. This is more of a counseling session for me. There are many more details to this story, but I think I get my main point across without getting too much into the drama.

Cannabis Classic

In early 2014, CRCLs Brandon Emmett reached out to us because we were coordinating the ACI sessions for May 2014. Brand new coalition based out of Fairbanks. Wanted to bring together business people and others who supported legalizing marijuana. We thought their mission was great and incorporated them into the program.

We encouraged everybody in the audience to support the CRCL, which was unknown at the time. Every speaker urged the audience to get involved with the rules making process, and join the CRCL.

The Alaska Cannabis Institute donated $500 that day. Others donated too.

One of the attendees that day was Bruce Schulte. He came up to me at the morning break and introduced himself. At that time, he was not affiliated with the CRCL. I also met Conrad Daley at the first ACI session in May 2014. He approached me at lunch. We spent the entire lunch break talking. We instantly developed a respect for one another, and a friendship developed.

At the end of the two-day event, the ACI and the CRCL continued to work together. The ACI bought a booth at the Midnight Sun Festival in Fairbanks, and opened it up to the CRCL. We were promoting our October seminar and the CRCL was gathering donations. It was a lot of fun. The CRCL guys were very helpful, and we had a great time. We continued to hangout over the summer. Brandon invited us fishing, and we went. That was a lot of fun too. Chris Rempert was there too.

It was around this time I told Emmett my intentions of organizing a cannabis trade association. I told him that the CRCL, which stands for Coalition for Responsible Cannabis Legislation, won’t serve a purpose after the state creates responsible rules and regulations for the industry. And that the Alaska Cannabis Institute was transforming into a more brick-and-mortar operation, and so we should merge the two and form the Alaska Cannabis Industry Association. Emmett thought it was a great idea, and he wanted to bring in a colleague: Bruce Schulte. I said that’s great. The more the merrier. And that my colleague, Conrad Daley, was also going to be involved.

I was pumped. I was excited. So I put together a plan. I told the group that we needed to have a lobbyist, because there was going to be an effort to repeal. So I put together a model where we could generate membership fees. I said I wasn’t interested in joining the National Cannabis Industry Association because they wouldn’t do anything for Alaskans so it didn’t make sense to give them all of our money, especially because it’s expensive to get down to Juneau. So I crafted this plan to demonstrate how we could be self-sustaining, how many businesses we needed to sign-up, how many individuals, and how we could reach them. Everybody agreed it was a good plan.

The next step, I thought, was to create a logo, website, and Facebook page. I told the group I would take care of that. I said it would take me about 30-days, because it is a lot of work, but that I would take care of it and pay for it. All I asked Brandon or Bruce to do was secure the business license.

But in the interim, things began to break down. Charlo Greene cussed and quit on live TV. The “No on 2” campaign was attacking the cannabis industry. Senator Pete Kelly of Fairbanks was being quoted in the paper saying if we legalize marijuana kids will die. All this stuff was going on. So I wrote a couple op-eds in the paper. Schulte and Emmett thought the op-eds were too blunt. One of the pieces was about cops policing for profit. They told me I was dangerous. I remember feeling like I was Maverick, Tom Cruise’s character in Top Gun, being lectured by Iceman (Val Kilmer).

Anyways, I finished the logo, website, and FB page for the Alaska Cannabis Industry Association. I sent it over to the group to verify. I was proud of the logo. I really liked it. I included 19 stars in the logo because there are 19 boroughs in Alaska. Schulte and Emmett had some recommendations to the logo, which were made. I sent back the logo for their approval and asked about am update for the business license. I never heard back. But I didn’t think too much of it, because I was going to see Schulte at the October 14-15, 2014 ACI sessions.

At the October sessions, I got a banner made and hung it up. We began promoting the association and fielding questions. The October sessions went great too. Lief Abel came back for the second straight time. He adored what we were doing, and wanted to learn more. He also wanted to get involved more, and asked how he could. I told him he could get involved with the ACIA, and he was excited. Kim Kole was also at the October sessions. I gave her the floor to the entire audience to promote a new group she was coordinating, Women Grow.

Conrad spoke at the October sessions. He was one of the audiences favorite lecturers. He was great. He spoke about living organic soil, and techniques to grow organically. It was awesome. Afterwards, we donated more money to the CRCL. Again, this was October and the vote was a short three weeks away. There was still work to be done.

But immediately after the October sessions things fell apart. Kim Kole started ripping me on social media. She had bad intelligence, but still went public with it anyways. She began attacking me. And this was before the vote. This is when the industry infighting started.

But worst of all, I couldn’t get a hold of Schulte and those guys. Then, I got an email from Leif Abel asking how he could get involved. I gave him more details about the ACIA, and he wanted to get involved. But then the next day, I got an email from him saying he didn’t know how to proceed because the “Alaska Cannabis Industry Association is already incorporated in Alaska.”

I was shocked. I didn’t know there was another group working to start an industry association. So I looked up the business name on Alaska Business License Lookup. And it was taken; and the members were Bruce Schulte, Brandon Emmett, Shaun Tacke, and a guy named Joshua Foch. My heart sunk. My jaw-dropped. I was hurt, but also angry. I didn’t understand why this happened. These guy literally stole this from us. They hi-jacked the Alaska Cannabis Industry Association, and I learned it from Lief Abel. They didn’t even have the guts to tell me they didn’t want me involved.

Anyways, they moved forward with the ACIA for a while. But they knew this story was gonna come out eventually. So they pivoted from the ACIA to the Alaska Marijuana Industry Association. Fine. They can change their name. They are still the same people running it.

We have reached out to Kim Kole and the AMIA to bridge the gap. They are not interested. To me that is not leadership. Leadership is about bring everybody together. We all know people have different interests. We all know people have different wants. That’s what makes living great. And we come together and we build greatness together. There isn’t any need to steal people’s ideas. That’s why the AMIA has struggled to take off. When you steal people’s ideas, you don’t have the vision to carry them out, because they weren’t your ideas to begin with.

In the meantime, Conrad and I had to go back to the drawing board. We had to define what our core issue was. Once the ACIA left us behind, we created the Alaska Growers Association.

For the supporting docs, see the emails below. Finally, to many of you, this might not seem like a big deal. But to me, I had never been betrayed like this before. This is not how I do business. This is not how anybody I have ever done business with does business. Maybe stealing ideas is the norm, but not in my world. Conrad and I spent a lot of time developing this. And just to have it taken from us, it was hard to deal with.

The Walker Administration fired Schulte because of the way he treated people. In part three of this series I will share more of my dealings with Schulte. It’s why John Calder quit, and it’s why he was removed from his position. He doesn’t treat people kindly.

About Aaron Waters 73 Articles
Aaron is a cannabis writer living in Eagle River with his wife and two dogs, Indica and Sativa.