The Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly moved quickly through its agenda Tuesday, with the longest discussion saved for an item that wasn’t yet up for a vote.
The Assembly received an update on the state’s progress with regulating commercial marijuana in Alaska from borough Planning Director Chris French. He said the state appears to be on track to issuing marijuana licenses by Feb. 24.
“If the Assembly, City of Ketchikan, City of Saxman, would like to have ordinances in place for review of these proposed business licenses, as well as any amendments to the zoning code, those would need to be in place prior to Feb. 24th,” he said.
French said the local Marijuana Advisory Committee will consider those issues during its Sept. 28 meeting.
Assembly Member Glen Thompson co-chairs that advisory committee. He said the upcoming meeting will be a productive one. The committee has recommended not banning commercial marijuana operations in the community, which means a lot of questions need to be answered in a short time frame.
“Where are they going to be, how many of them are they going to be and are we going to tax them?” he said. “So those are the things that we’re going to be addressing at the MAC probably over the next month or so. Probably the Sept. 28th meeting is going to be one where the rubber meets the road because we’re running out of time if we want to get these things in place.”
Thompson had a question for Borough Attorney Scott Brandt-Erichsen about an email that Borough Assembly members received from a Juneau resident, warning them that lawmakers could be charged with a federal crime for allowing commercial marijuana operations.
Marijuana was legalized in the state by Alaska voters last fall, but remains illegal on the federal level.
Brandt-Erichsen said he hasn’t seen the email, but he doesn’t believe that it’s accurate.
“If the borough is not an actor, an operator of a facility, or acting in some of the chain of possession or processing, it’s difficult for me to see a way that any borough officer or elected official could be responsible in their official capacity for any sort of federal offense,” he said.
Brandt-Erichsen said it might be a different case if a local government chooses to operate its own retail marijuana operation, which has been suggested as a way to control the products offered for sale.
Also Tuesday, the Assembly approved an additional $50,000 for K&L Gates, a law firm that is representing the borough in its ongoing lawsuit against the State of Alaska over education funding.
The additional funds bring the total contract costs to $450,000, and are needed to pay for legal services through oral arguments in front of the Alaska Supreme Court, scheduled for Sept. 16 in Anchorage.