Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966

Borough to await state's lead on pot


The Haines Borough is waiting for the state to take the lead on how marijuana dispensaries and grow operations will be regulated following the passage of Proposition 2, but residents already are mulling over the pros and cons of opening a business.

Clerk Julie Cozzi said the day after the Nov. 4 election, a man came to the borough asking to apply for a dispensary license. Since then, the borough hasn’t had any inquiries.

“I believe those locals who are interested in this topic are tuned in enough to know it is way too premature to start asking what the borough will do,” Cozzi said.

  Other municipalities, though, including the North Pole and Fairbanks city councils, are holding public hearings to try and get ahead of the game. The city councils this week will take public testimony from residents to discuss potential marijuana regulations at the local level, as the legislation approved Nov. 4 allows for some degree of local control.

According to the legislation, municipalities can prohibit the operation of marijuana stores, manufacturing facilities, and cultivation facilities through passage of an ordinance or by voter initiative.

Local governments can also, via ordinance or regulation, limit the number of marijuana establishments, their locations, and their times of operation. They can even designate their own regulatory authorities to process applications proposing to create a marijuana establishment within borough boundaries.

Assembly member Dave Berry, who championed a resolution earlier this year that opposed legalization, said a public discussion needs to take place about what the community wants.

“The voice of the people said to approve it, but it has to be done correctly, so I think there should be discussion on certain parameters,” Berry said.

More than 60 percent of Haines and Klukwan voters supported legalization.

“Haines has a bad habit of just letting everything run willy-nilly. I think we need to be proactive instead of reactive so there should be public discussion on what we want to do,” he said.

Berry said he “isn’t quite sure yet” whether he will propose an ordinance on the issue.

When asked whether the borough had any plan for how it would handle the change in state law, borough manager David Sosa said the municipality is waiting on input from the state before moving forward.

Prop 2 directed the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Board (or a new entity, if the Alaska Legislature chooses to create one) to adopt regulations governing marijuana operations by the end of August, 90 days after the election was certified.

Licenses are not currently available, and, according to the ABC Board’s website, there is no mechanism for an interested business owner to put his or her name on a “waiting list” for the licenses.

That hasn’t stopped local business owner Mike Ward from considering the possibilities. Ward said he owns a couple of buildings that aren’t being completely used right now that might suit the purpose.

“I would probably be able to get up and running as quickly or faster as potential competitors, just because I have buildings,” he said.

Because it’s a controversial topic in a small town, Ward said he is wary about getting into the market.

“There is a possibility that I could lose some existing business as a result of entering into a new business. I wouldn’t want that to happen,” he said.

He hasn’t made an “official” decision yet, he said.

“I’ve had some younger relatives tell me I should get into it, but we’ll see what happens,” Ward said.

Resident Dean Lari, a longtime proponent of marijuana legalization, said he doesn’t think Haines is a good place for a dispensary, economically speaking.

“To think that Haines is going to generate this huge revenue with marijuana, the overhead alone would sink that store,” Lari said. “I don’t think Haines is the community for a retail marijuana shop.”

Lari said he also expects the borough to put up a fight on the matter. “If somebody wants to do it, more power to them. But I don’t think the borough wants it. They aren’t looking forward to having a pot shop on Main Street,” he said.

The average user can sustain their personal use by growing six plants, Lari said. Instead of opening a dispensary, Lari said he would like to teach people how to grow their own marijuana so they can appreciate the process and know where their product is coming from.

“There is a lot more to growing marijuana than putting a seed in the ground and hoping for the best,” he said.

Though Prop 2 legalized marijuana use for people 21 and older and legalized personal possession of up to an ounce of pot, the law doesn’t come into effect until late February. That means it’s still illegal and violators can still be charged. 


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