In a split vote Monday, the Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly rejected an ordinance that would have added more restrictive requirements to marijuana businesses than mandated by the state, including larger buffer zones and a rule that marijuana businesses not violate federal law regarding the transportation of pot.
The new restrictions were suggested during the Assembly’s last meeting as a way to comply with some federal rules. However, Assembly Member Stephen Bradford argued, everything about legalized marijuana in Alaska is a violation of federal rules.
“I just don’t understand why we are picking and choosing some areas of federal law that we think are important,” he said. “And I further don’t think it’s our duty to concern ourselves as a governing body at the borough level with federal law when our state government has approved this process and has approved commerce in cannabis.”
Assembly Member Glen Thompson said he’s been thinking about the issue for the past two weeks, and he agrees with Bradford.
“At this point in time when we interject some type of compliance with federal law, which we simply can’t do, it muddies the water and actually opens the door for some challenges both for us and for other folks down the road,” he said.
Assembly member Alan Bailey, though, disagreed.
“I fear for the outcome to our community,” Bailey said. “I cannot and will not tell constituents, nor can I vote for, in good conscience, to convey to anybody not to obey or not to comply with federal law.”
The motion was a substitute ordinance amending the borough’s marijuana regulations, and it failed 3-4 with Bailey and Assembly Members John Harrington and Mike Painter voting in favor.
The original ordinance, which was approved Monday, was amended slightly. The amendment requires a plan by marijuana retail permit applicants for how they will get their product tested, and that plan must comply with state law.
Borough Planning Director Chris French told the Assembly that he was told that the state won’t prohibit mailing samples to testing facilities outside of a community.
French added that there has been some tentative interest in opening a local marijuana testing facility.
“We’ve had some conversations. No one has actually submitted an application yet, but I believe there may be an application in the works for a local testing facility,” he said. “But, that’s only been discussions we’ve had, questions from interested parties. Nothing has been filed yet.”
Also Monday, the Assembly honored Robert Pickrell, who died last week. Mayor David Landis read aloud a memorial, noting that Pickrell served on the Borough Assembly from 1965-1968, self-published his own free newspaper, The New Alaskan; and was a strong advocate for the timber industry.
The next Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly meeting is July 5 – delayed one day because of the Fourth of July holiday.