Pubdate: Sun, 25 Jan 2015
Source: Alaska Dispatch News (AK)
Copyright: 2015 Alaska Dispatch Publishing
Note: Anchorage Daily News until July '14
Author: Suzanna Caldwell


Anchorage's next mayor will have a lot to tackle when she or he takes 
office later this year, but one topic seems to have the most 
uncharted territory: marijuana legalization.

Of the three leading candidates who have announced their intention to 
seek office -- Amy Demboski, Dan Coffey and Andrew Halcro -- all have 
opinions when it comes to marijuana.

Halcro touched on his position on marijuana at a panel discussion by 
the Alaska Native Professionals Association on marijuana legalization 
last week.

Halcro approached the meeting as one of his last acts as president of 
the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce. Last week, he formally announced 
his plans to run for mayor of Anchorage. He said he did not 
personally support Ballot Measure 2 and voted no on the measure that 
legalized recreational marijuana in Alaska.

Halcro said he was conflicted over the decision. He was elected to 
state House of Representatives in 1998, the same year Alaska voters 
approved medical marijuana. However, no system of acquiring the drug 
was ever set up. He said he supported setting up a medical marijuana 
distribution system, but that his work on education in recent years 
has made him leery of the impact drugs have on schools. He noted that 
in an Alaska schools survey, teachers across the board listed drugs 
as a key contributor affecting student learning.

Despite his personal opposition, he said he respects the will of the 
Alaska voters and that it's now time for state and local governments 
to "manage their expectations."

Halcro said the key to implementing marijuana laws would be keeping 
good data right away. He expects to see guidance from both the 
Anchorage Assembly and the business community on what that data 
collection will look like and how it will guide policy now and into 
the future, especially as the state deals with cost cutting.

"This is the most radical drug experiment the state has ever 
undertaken and we have to do it right because there is significant 
risk out there," he said.

Dan Coffey said he too voted no on the measure, but that he respects 
the will of the voters. An attorney, he said he has reached out to 
city attorneys in Seattle and Denver to learn more about how they've 
handled regulating the substance.

Now his biggest concern is seeing what comes out of Juneau in terms 
of the regulations. He said whatever happens during the legislative 
session and rule-making process will ultimately impact how he sees 
the city moving forward with its own rules.

"There's too much uncertainty to start writing laws today, but let's 
see what plays out in Juneau," he said earlier this week.

When asked if he would support a ban similar to what Demboski 
introduced in November, he also thought it was too soon to say. He 
said he had concerns over certain issues -- like driving under the 
influence and edibles -- but that he had faith in watching the 
process move forward.

"I may have concerns allayed," he said. "I am a true believer in process."

Demboski said she still has significant questions on what kind of 
liabilities the city could face when it comes to marijuana 
legalization. She said that federal law prohibiting the substance 
could potentially lead to conflicts. She noted that while the Obama 
administration has been hands-off in prosecuting marijuana crimes in 
states where the substance is legal, that could change with a new 
administration in 2016. Demboski particularly expressed concerns over 
any tax revenue collected and whether that might put taxpayer money at risk.

"We want to make sure what ever we develop is sound," she said.

Despite backlash from her effort to ban commercial marijuana in the 
municipality, she said her position on the issue hasn't changed. She 
said she will still approach the issue cautiously, looking for 
possible "land mines" along the way.

"I don't know how the city will develop our regulations. I think it's 
too premature to say yet," she said. "People still can't answer basic 
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom