Pubdate: Wed, 18 Mar 2015
Source: Alaska Dispatch News (AK)
Copyright: 2015 Alaska Dispatch Publishing
Note: Anchorage Daily News until July '14
Author: Zaz Hollander


PALMER -- The Matanuska-Susitna Borough Assembly on Tuesday night 
unanimously voted down a bid to put commercial marijuana operations 
to a vote of Valley residents.

Borough Mayor Larry DeVilbiss wanted to ask residents outside the 
cities of Palmer, Wasilla and Houston if they supported retail 
stores, as well as testing, growing or manufacturing facilities.

Mat-Su voters in November narrowly voted against the initiative 
legalizing recreational marijuana use in Alaska, though residents in 
Palmer and other communities backed legalization. DeVilbiss said he 
just wanted to gauge residents' feelings on specific commercial 
operations in light of that vote.

All seven Assembly members voted down his idea, calling it 
unnecessary and premature, as well as flying "fundamentally in the 
face" of voters statewide, as Ron Arvin put it.

Jim Sykes, who represents Sutton within his district, said the 
question is the same as the one voters already answered and said 
better questions could be asked at the polls than those posed by 
"this kind of meaningless language."

Several Assembly members noted the borough is putting together a 
17-member advisory committee on marijuana. The committee members, 
along with 17 alternates, were approved Tuesday.

"We're going to have an advisory committee form with a lot of people 
that are probably more in tune with this issue than us," said Matthew 
Beck, who represents Palmer. "Before we moved on something like this, 
I'd like to hear from the advisory committee."

The state Legislature also has yet to develop laws governing retail 
and commercial marijuana operations, several noted.

Assembly member Steve Colligan of Wasilla wanted to postpone the 
discussion until June, after the Legislature made some decisions and 
the committee could weigh in. That motion was defeated.

Sara Williams, a member of the borough's new committee and owner of a 
nascent business called Midnight Greenery, said two months ago she 
and her husband looked at buying a Meadow Lakes warehouse in a 
residential area.

It seemed an "excellent location for a grow operation" since the 
facility had housed illegal grows for years before it went on the 
market, Williams said.

But they backed off after residents said they planned to submit a 
petition to ban cultivation in the neighborhood.

Williams before the vote suggested that instead of a ballot question, 
the borough recognize the right of subdivisions to petition for bans 
on cannabis facilities within a mile.

"Give the local control to the constituents," she said.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom