Mountain View smoke shop aims to enter retail marijuana market

A new business on Mountain View Drive is hoping to cash in on Alaska’s budding marijuana market and become the first smoke shop to sell legal ganja in the neighborhood.

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L.J. Lee works behind the counter at Smoke Signals, the Mountain View Plaza business she co-owns with her husband, Michael.

Smoke Signals, owned by husband and wife Michael and L.J. Lee, is still a long way off from stocking weed.

Following last year’s vote, according to the Alaska Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development, the state had more than nine months to create the regulatory framework for licensing marijuana retailers. Local government bodies — including the Anchorage Assembly — can choose to ban marijuana sales. The Alaska Legislature can impose its own rules: A bill proposed by Anchorage Rep. Bob Lynn would have prohibited sales within 500 feet of a school, youth center, church or public park.

Regardless, the Lees are putting down roots in Mountain View in anticipation of a budding new retail marijuana market.

“I want to get a grow license, too,” Michael Lee said. “I want to grow my own, that’s my plan. I want to supply other stores.”

He said he and his wife decided to open the smoke shop about a year ago. He was working 14-hour days as a chef at different Chinese restaurants around Anchorage, and L.J. Lee was a waitress at a Japanese restaurant. The long hours apart were too much.

“I had no life,” Michael Lee said.

They saved and planned, and came across the corner space at Mountain View Plaza about a month ago. They signed the lease and opened up shop shortly thereafter.

“I like it here,” L.J. Lee said Monday evening, standing behind a glass counter loaded with rolling papers and pipes.

The back wall of the store is lined with hookahs on narrow shelves and bags of loose tobacco. Smoke Signals is the third smoke shop within a mile-long stretch of Mountain View Drive; sandwiched between The Smoke Shoppe a block to the west and Smoke King, a drive-through establishment seven blocks to the east. Lee said he’s not concerned by the number of other shops in the area.

“Most of my friends, they have a smoke shop; some of them do really well, especially down the block, not that far away from here,” he said. “So I thought one more here would be not too bad.”

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