Pubdate: Sun, 18 Jan 2015
Source: Fairbanks Daily News-Miner (AK)
Copyright: 2015 Fairbanks Publishing Company, Inc.
Author: Amanda Bohman


FAIRBANKS - Alaska's marijuana laws begin to get a lot more 
permissive in about five weeks: Recreational marijuana use will be 
legal for people older than 21 on Feb. 24.

Voters statewide made that choice in November when they approved a 
broad state initiative that also allows for the legalized but 
regulated sale of marijuana, marijuana products and marijuana 
accessories beginning next year, following the required adoption of 
regulations later this year.

But the new law allows local governments to ban or limit marijuana 
businesses such as retailers and smoking clubs. That has led to 
discussions in Fairbanks, North Pole and elsewhere in the state about 
where people ought to be allowed to buy, sell, grow, process and 
consume marijuana.

Entrepreneurs, meanwhile, are busy thinking about ways to capitalize 
on the new industry.

Getting ready to cash in

Charlie Lester, a 48-year-old heavy equipment operator and general 
foreman on the North Slope, said opening a marijuana club and 
eventually a retail store are part of his retirement plan. The Delta 
Junction resident said he has a name picked out, a Facebook page up 
and is having a logo designed so he can have T-shirts and sweatshirts made.

Lester said he has lined up locations inside and outside of Delta 
Junction city limits to open a private club where people will be able 
to smoke pot. He said he would prefer to establish his club within 
the city but he's waiting to see if the City Council will allow it. 
His goal is to open by May.

His plan for a retail store will have to wait until state lawmakers 
decide how to regulate marijuana sales.

In Fairbanks, some real estate agents have been receiving calls from 
people looking for warehouse space for marijuana-related businesses.

Kelli Powers, an associate broker with Century 21 Gold Rush, said she 
has had a couple of calls and showed a space to someone looking for a 
location for a marijuana-related business.

David Pruhs, owner of Pruhs Real Estate Group, said he has fielded 
some calls about commercial space for marijuana-related businesses. 
But he has a message for prospective buyers: "Do not buy a location 
until you see the statutes out of the state of Alaska."

Pruhs is also a member of the Fairbanks City Council and the borough 
Planning Commission. He said people should pick out a site but do a 
lease option, which means leasing a property but having an option to 
buy it. That way buyers are not stuck with a building that turns out 
to have the wrong zoning for a marijuana business.

Local laws in the works

The Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly will see its first 
ordinance related to the new state marijuana law at the end of the 
month. The ordinance doesn't do much policy-wise, but it does sets up 
a framework in borough code for future marijuana policy decisions.

Assemblyman Lance Roberts sponsored the measure, which is scheduled 
to be introduced on Jan. 29.

"There are no teeth," Roberts said. "All that it does is that it 
creates a title section and it lists purposes and definitions. I am 
trying to make sure this is organized well in the code."

Borough Mayor Luke Hopkins said he is putting together an advisory 
panel to help draft an ordinance about where marijuana can be grown, 
processed, bought, sold and consumed in the borough. The panel will 
begin its work by taking a close look at zoning, he said.

"Before we have our laws from the state, what's important to our 
community?" Hopkins said.

The advisory panel is scheduled to hold its first meeting at 10 a.m. Jan. 28.

Hopkins will draw from multiple sectors of the community, including 
the business sector, education and the military, to round out the 
panel. He will invite some Borough Assembly members and 
representatives of the cities of Fairbanks and North Pole, he said.

Brandon Emmett, of the Coalition for Responsible Cannabis 
Legislation, said he wants to help draft local policy dealing with 
marijuana. He believes marijuana should be regulated like alcohol.

"Something we are working on right now is to make sure that there are 
avenues for people to consume cannabis responsibly," Emmett said. 
"There have to be areas where people can not only purchase marijuana 
but where they can use it as well."

The new voter-approved marijuana laws prohibit smoking marijuana in 
public. But one of the issues that remains unclear is the definition 
of a public space.

Hopkins said he has asked for a legal analysis from the borough 
attorney about what defines a public space.

Other communities are formulating their responses to the legalization 
of marijuana. Locally, the North Pole City Council soon will consider 
a measure prohibiting the sale of marijuana in city limits.

City officials in Sitka will hold a town hall meeting Monday to hear 
from residents about how or whether to regulate marijuana use.

The Juneau Assembly voted last week to not consider issuing any land 
use permits for marijuana farms or documentation related to marijuana 
businesses until Oct. 19, or six months after the legislative session 
ends, according to the Juneau Empire newspaper. The Legislature will 
be writing regulations for marijuana businesses this session, which 
begins Tuesday.

The municipality of Anchorage is considering an ordinance that would 
ban marijuana use in public, fining offenders $100. The Anchorage 
measure defines public places to include streets, sidewalks, parking 
areas, sports arenas, places of business, shopping centers, 
playgrounds, schools, prisons, lobbies and certain areas of apartment buildings.
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