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By BECKY BOHRER
JUNEAU — The police chief recently named to the board that regulates Alaska's legal marijuana industry said the fight that has long been waged against pot in this country has been a "waste of time" and a waste of law enforcement resources.
Jeff Ankerfelt, who is police chief in the southeast Alaska city of Sitka, told The Associated Press on Friday that he wants to contribute to the successful implementation of well thought-out industry regulations.
During his career in law enforcement, he came to the conclusion that "our war on marijuana was really a waste of time and counterproductive, particularly as there was increasing evidence that there was some medical benefits to the use of marijuana."
Ankerfelt said he is interested in investigating the medical benefits.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say the marijuana plant has chemicals that may help symptoms for some health problems. But the agency says there's insufficient research on whether the plant works to treat or cure those conditions.
Ankerfelt was appointed by Gov. Bill Walker to the Marijuana Control Board's public safety seat, replacing Travis Welch, who only served for about two months.
Prior to Welch, Soldotna Police Chief Pete Mlynarik held the seat. He resigned in January after the U.S. Department of Justice shifted from a more lenient stance on marijuana enforcement.
Mlynarik said the department's decision removed the underpinning on which Alaska's industry is based and did away with the federal government "looking the other way" in states that have legalized marijuana.
Alaska Gov. Bill Walker has said he's committed to upholding the will of Alaskans, who voted in 2014 to legalize adult use of marijuana.
Cary Carrigan, executive director of the Alaska Marijuana Industry Association, said he's interested in learning more about Ankerfelt and encouraged by what he's heard so far.
"I think Mlynarik saw it as, he was still in the drug war, Mlynarik was," Carrigan said.
Last month, with the public safety seat empty following Welch's departure, the Marijuana Control Board voted to delay until June discussion of draft rules for allowing people to consume marijuana products at authorized stores. The board wanted to wait until it was at full strength for further discussions.
Ankerfelt said he will miss the June meeting to attend his daughter's graduation.