Pubdate: Mon, 15 Dec 2014
Source: Alaska Dispatch News (AK)
Copyright: 2014 Alaska Dispatch Publishing
Note: Anchorage Daily News until July '14
Author: Suzanna Caldwell


Residents will get a chance to testify Tuesday on whether the 
Anchorage Assembly should vote to ban commercial marijuana facilities 
in Alaska's largest city.

The ordinance, introduced by Eagle River Assembly member Amy 
Demboski, has caused supporters and opponents of the initiative, just 
weeks past the election, to regroup around the measure.

Demboski's ordinance, if approved by the Assembly, would allow the 
city to accept the "opt out" provision of Ballot Measure 2, the 
initiative legalizing recreational marijuana in Alaska.

Demboski has said she would like to see the city take a "wait and 
see" approach to the rule-making process. In an interview last month, 
she said the municipality should take its time and watch what comes 
out of the Legislature and the nine-month marijuana rule-making 
process that will begin in February, when the initiative goes into effect.

Anchorage appears to be the first community to consider the opt-out 
provision of the initiative. At least one assembly member on the 
Kenai Peninsula has indicated he plans to introduce legislation that 
would ban commercial grow operations in the Kenai Peninsula Borough, 
while in Fairbanks, leaders came to no conclusions on how they might 
regulate the substance until after the rule-making process concludes.

For many who supported Ballot Measure 2, the "wait and see" approach 
seems like too much, too soon.

"When you have a community supporting the initiative and then just a 
week or two later you have a single Assembly member asking (to) ban 
it without doing any work beforehand, that sets off alarm bells, 
particularly in Anchorage," said Taylor Bickford, spokesman with the 
Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in Alaska, referencing 
the fierce debate over AO 37, an ordinance rewriting Anchorage's labor laws.

The campaign has worked to get people to the meeting Tuesday, 
starting a Facebook event with 86 confirmed guests, creating a form 
from which people can email Assembly members directly and sending out 
a mass email from initiative co-sponsor Tim Hinterberger.

Hinterberger, who advocated for the measure throughout the campaign, 
expressed frustration with the Assembly's move Thursday.

"We hope to remind people (that) why we're doing this kind of stuff 
is to take it out of the hands of criminals, and now the Assembly is 
stepping in to try to prevent this," he said.

Bickford noted that if the ordinance passes, the campaign would work 
toward supporting the industry in outlying areas, specifically the 
Matanuska-Susitna Borough, in an effort to begin to stifle the black market.

Bickford also said that if the ban is approved, it does little in 
terms of a policy perspective. If anything, it gives Anchorage less 
authority to offer input during the rule-making process. He said 
Anchorage has a chance to be a leader when it comes to crafting 
marijuana laws, a position it will lose if it opts out now.

"It's just so early. Most people recognize that it doesn't make a 
whole lot of practical sense for a community to issue a ban before 
the rules are written," Bickford said. "Nothing is going to happen 
between now and then. It's really just a political stunt."

All three Assembly members sponsoring the ordinance -- Demboski, Dick 
Traini and Paul Honeman -- have either announced or indicated some 
interest in a run for mayor.

Bickford, with the marijuana campaign, was earlier tapped to run 
Demboski's mayoral bid. In an interview Friday, Bickford said that 
while the two are friends, he "never really" had a formal position 
with her campaign and does not currently.

"I agree with her on most things but I disagree with her on this," he said.

Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority CEO Jeff Jessee, a volunteer 
with the Big Marijuana. Big Mistake. Vote No on 2 campaign, said he 
did not want to speculate on Demboski's political motivations for 
introducing the ordinance.

"The conversations I've had with her, she seems to be very 
thoughtful, which is what I'm interested in," he said.

Jessee said he supports the ordinance, arguing it will create a safer 
business environment, since businesses won't risk losing money 
investing in ventures that could be banned once the regulatory 
process concludes or if, in two years, the state Legislature decides 
to repeal the initiative.

"The people I hear from are excited about it being introduced," 
Jessee said. "This gives us a chance to really think through what 
this might mean."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom