The Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly voted Monday to not protest two local marijuana business licenses recently approved by the state Marijuana Control Board, but with some added language in hopes of protecting the borough in case the federal government decides to crack down.
Assembly Member Glen Thompson read the added language that he proposed: “That the borough does not interpose an objection to the proposed license issuance under state law, but notes for the record that the operation is not permitted under federal law, and (the borough) does not endorse or condone activities prohibited under federal law.”
Thompson said the borough needs to be on record not condoning a federally illegal operation.
Assembly Members Stephen Bradford and Judith McQuerry voted against the amendments, which passed in 5-2 votes – one for each license.
The main motions to not object to the licenses passed 6-1 each with Assembly Member John Harrington voting no both times.
Harrington said it’s one thing to make marijuana legal for people to grow and consume on their own, but he can’t vote in favor of marijuana businesses opening in the community.
“The actions we have made basically say, ‘Hey, it’s OK. It’s all right if you get involved in these drugs. It’s all right if you get stoned all the time,’” he said. “That’s a whole different level for me than the passive acceptance of the fact that people will smoke and drink and do all of those nasty things to their body that they’ll do on their own time.”
The two licenses are for Cannabis Corner, a proposed retail store on Mud Bay Road near Totem Bight State Park; and for JWS Enterprises, a cultivation business on Gravina Island.
Also Monday, the Assembly unanimously approved a settlement agreement with the state regarding the borough’s appeal of the state’s determination of overall property values in the borough. That number is used to determine how much of the share of local school funding the borough must pay.
The state had put property values at about $74 million. The borough argued that the value should be about $23 million. The settlement agreement puts the value at about $30.4 million.
Borough Manager Dan Bockhorst said the settlement will save borough taxpayers about $360,000 over the next few years, without reducing overall funding for local schools.
“And I think that there’s a lesson to be learned here,” he said. “That we should be vigilant and diligent and pay attention to what the State of Alaska is doing, and that we should stand up and fight.”
On a somewhat related note, the Assembly voted 4-3 to approve a resolution calling on the governor and Legislature to eliminate the disparity in the state’s education funding formula, specifically in regards to what municipalities pay versus what many communities in unorganized boroughs pay for schools.
Assembly Members Felix Wong, Bradford and McQuerry voted no.
In other matters, the Assembly voted Monday to confirm Bradford as the new vice-mayor. He’ll fill in when Mayor David Landis is unavailable.