The Ketchikan Gateway Borough Planning Commission voted unanimously Tuesday night to approve a resolution that advances regulations for marijuana-related businesses to operate within the borough.
During public comment, two people spoke and asked the Planning Commission to strictly limit marijuana businesses. Renee Schofield and Terrance Robbins both advocate for substance control, and work with the Ketchikan Wellness Coalition
Schofield said her first choice would be to not allow marijuana businesses at all. If that’s not possible, she said, restrict them as much as possible.
“I want big buffer zones,” she said. “I don’t want to minimize anything, because we can always make it different later.”
Buffer zones are areas where marijuana businesses would not be allowed, or would be allowed only with special permits.
Robbins also advocated for a ban on commercial pot. He cited Ketchikan’s already high rate of youth marijuana use, and said that studies show marijuana can limit brain development in young people.
“It’s dangerous,” he said. “It’s very harmful to kids. I’ve listened to presentations from the foremost brain experts in the world, and they showed us video of human brains that had been exposed to marijuana between the ages of 15 and 18, and parts of their brains that regulate self-control and things like that are literally smaller as an adult. It stops development. It’s incredibly harmful.”
Robbins suggested that, short of a ban, the borough require all proposed marijuana businesses to go through a Conditional Use Permit process. The proposed regulations require a CUP in many instances, but not all.
Commissioner Mike Medford asked Planning Director Chris French whether that was considered by the Marijuana Advisory Committee, which reviewed the proposed local regulations before sending them to the Planning Commission.
French said the committee felt there should be some areas where a CUP isn’t required.
“I think the concern from the committee standpoint is that, if you made all of them Conditional Use Permits, then none of them would ever get approved because they’re going to be a big magnet for people to come out and be against them,” he said.
The resolution approved by the Planning Commission on Tuesday sends an ordinance and a couple of code changes to the Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly for consideration.
The ordinance calls for allowing marijuana businesses, as long as they meet certain standards. They must be located outside of a 200-foot buffer for residential zones, and outside of a 1,000-foot buffer for schools. The Planning Commission unanimously agreed to add a 1,000-foot buffer for youth facilities, which includes day cares.
If it meets those standards, a proposed marijuana business could begin the permitting process. But, if the proposed business is inside one or both of those buffer zones, it could start the conditional-use permit, or CUP, process, which allows public input from neighboring property owners.
The proposed borough buffer zones are in addition to buffers that the state likely will impose. State marijuana business regulations are not yet finalized. They are due for completion by Nov. 24.