Commercial pot operations won’t be banned by the Ketchikan Gateway Borough, at least not yet. The Borough Assembly voted Monday to hold off on that decision until after the Alaska Legislature has completed this session and, theoretically, come up with some kind of plan for how the state will regulate marijuana.
A ban on commercial pot operations within borough boundaries was proposed by Assembly Member John Harrington. But he said he put the item on Monday’s agenda primarily to spark a conversation and gather public input.
The Assembly heard from some members of the public. Three people spoke against a borough ban, and one favored a temporary ban until regulations are established.
Terri Robbins is one of the speakers who opposes a ban on commercial marijuana. She and others pointed out that the voters have spoken. Robbins added that a ban would leave marijuana sales in the hands of criminals.
“I’ve heard marijuana referred to as a gateway drug. While I disagree with that characterization, I do acknowledge that as things stand currently, otherwise law-abiding citizens are forced to become patrons of the black market in order to obtain marijuana for recreational or medical use,” she said. “Exposure to more dangerous illegal substances is far more likely under those circumstances.”
Renee Schofield supports a ban on commercial pot in Ketchikan, but said it could sunset after the community has come up with a plan.
“I think it’s important that we have those conversations and lead up to it, and not wait to see what happens and then try to chase it down the road and fix it,” she said.
During Assembly discussion of the issue, Harrington said he was open to a ban that would expire in a year. Other Assembly members, though, didn’t want to take action on his proposal quite yet.
Assembly Member Glen Thompson pointed out that the borough hadn’t yet talked about the issue with City of Ketchikan officials. A joint city-borough discussion on the topic is set for noon on Friday.
In consideration of that and the legislative process, Thompson proposed delaying Harrington’s motion until April 20th.
“If we postpone it until our second meeting in April, we’ll have a really good idea, or at least a lot more clear idea of what the Legislature is going to do,” he said. “It would also allow us time to confer with the city, not simply in one liaison meeting but several, and have an opportunity for public discourse and discussion. Doesn’t push it out too far, but it does give us that latitude.”
The motion to postpone passed 6-1. Assembly Member Bill Rotecki voted no because, he said, a borough ban would be redundant. The initiative approved by voters last fall stipulates that commercial marijuana operations are not allowed until the state comes up with regulations for that industry, as long as the state does so within nine months.
Also Monday, the Assembly talked in executive session about the borough’s lawsuit challenging the State of Alaska’s regulation that municipalities pay a specific amount for public schools. The borough won its lawsuit in Superior Court, and the state has appealed that ruling to the Alaska Supreme Court.
The Assembly did not take any action following the executive session.