Should local government enforce federal drug laws as it regulates marijuana? That question was before the Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly at its Monday meeting.
Alaska law created by a citizens’ initiative gave state and local officials the power to regulate pot growing, processing and sales.
Part of the borough’s draft marijuana ordinance requires businesses to have a plan to transport test samples without violating federal law.
Assembly Member Stephen Bradford said the borough should leave federal enforcement to federal officials.
“We all complain about the overreach and intrusion of the federal bureaucracy into our daily lives. I don’t think we should waste one minute of borough time, resources and facilities on determining whether or not someone is in compliance with that federal law,” Bradford said.
That law prohibits carrying pot products on planes or boats, which could be needed for testing in Southeast’s isolated communities.
Member Alan Bailey had no question about borough enforcement.
“As a legislative body, how can we convey to the citizens of our community to ignore federal law, or the consequences thereof? We’re creating not only policy, we’re creating regulations. And by our own code, that is to be in compliance with borough, state and federal law,” Bailey said.
An amendment limiting enforcement to state and local rules failed.
The assembly voted 6-1 to move the pot ordinance on to a second reading, so discussion will continue at the June 20 meeting.
Members also narrowly voted to ask borough officials to draft a version bringing the ordinance in line with federal law. That could prohibit commercial cultivation, processing and sales.
Another term of the ordinance requires business-license applicants to be eligible to receive zoning permits. It also calls for permits to be denied if they violate state law.
The Ketchikan City Council is also considering how to manage marijuana. Last week, members voted to continue discussion of a 5 percent sales tax on pot. That would be in addition to the regular 6.5 percent sales tax.