The Ketchikan Marijuana Advisory Committee talked Monday about a potential $10 per ounce excise tax on marijuana, but didn’t vote on the issue.
The committee also heard public comment for and against allowing retail marijuana sales in the community.
Renee Schofield, who runs Tongass Substance Screening – a drug testing company — is a member of the Substance Abuse Task Force of the Ketchikan Wellness Coalition. She opposed legalization of marijuana when it was a statewide ballot issue in fall of 2014, and said Monday that the community should ban retail sales in Ketchikan.
The marijuana initiative approved by voters does allow communities to opt out, a rule that’s similar to other states that have legalized cannabis.
“In Colorado, 144 out of 180 counties have opted out. And Oregon is following much the same rule. We’re just not ready. We don’t have the infrastructure, we don’t have the planning.”
Terrance Robbins, also of the Wellness Coalition, told the committee that a proposed $10 excise tax would not generate enough revenue to pay for the cost to society of readily available marijuana. He also noted that people can legally grow their own pot, and he questioned how much demand there would be for retail marijuana in Ketchikan.
Three other people also spoke against allowing retail marijuana in the community. Two people spoke in favor. One was Ralph Mirsky, who proposed the $10 excise tax, which he says should be earmarked for student travel related to public school activities.
Mirsky says he’s a former law-enforcement officer, and he doesn’t advocate using substances recreationally, but he has experienced one benefit of marijuana.
“I had cancer almost 12 years ago. Chemotherapy was horrendous. I had to go underground to get marijuana to calm my vomiting, my nausea, to get my appetite back. It works.”
Mirksy says he dealt with the law-enforcement side of marijuana, as well, and he believes legal retail trade would reduce the black market.
The MAC previously voted to recommend not banning retail marijuana. The committee includes representatives from the Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly, Ketchikan City Council, Saxman City Council and Ketchikan School Board. It’s an advisory committee, so it can make recommendations, but final decisions are up to those bodies.
Despite that previous vote, Committee Member Alan Bailey asked that the next MAC meeting agenda include discussion of temporarily banning retail sales of marijuana.
During committee discussion of the proposed excise tax, members agreed that they would write down their thoughts on how much of a tax they believe is reasonable, and where they believe the revenue should be spent, and send that information to the borough clerk’s office. The issue will be on the next Marijuana Advisory Committee meeting agenda.
MAC members voted unanimously Monday to recommend to the various governing bodied that the committee become a standing committee. It was formed as an ad hoc, or temporary, committee to consider issues related to legalization of marijuana. But, the members agreed that the topic would have ongoing issues that will need to be addressed over the long term.
The next MAC meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Dec. 14 in Borough Assembly chambers.