Pubdate: Tue, 27 Oct 2015
Source: Alaska Dispatch News (AK)
Copyright: 2015 Alaska Dispatch Publishing
Note: Anchorage Daily News until July '14
Author: Tim Hale
Note: Tim Hale grew up on Prince William Sound in Whittier and 
Valdez, and now lives in Palmer.


On Oct. 16, I took the opportunity to give testimony before the 
Marijuana Control Board concerning the proposed marijuana 
regulations. I wanted to make clear my opposition to 3AAC306.030 -- 
Petition for License in Area With No Local Government. That section 
will require potential business owners in the unorganized borough to 
get the permission, in writing, of up to two-thirds of their 
neighbors, within a radius of up to 5 miles, before the board will 
consider them for a license.

The three minutes allotted for testimony is not enough time to cover 
all of the arguments against such a policy, but the crux of the 
matter is that this does not represent equal treatment under the law 
and is an onerous burden on the business owner.

The example I used was that of my property in the Copper Valley. 
There might be as many as 15 permanent residents within a 5-mile 
radius of my place, and I have serious reservations about just 
strolling up driveways with a piece of paper in my hand. Many of the 
places near my property have signs saying things like "No 
Trespassing" and "Beware of Dog." People buy property in the boonies 
for many reasons, one of which is to be left alone. Another might be 
to grow marijuana.

Land in the unorganized borough solves many site-security issues for 
marijuana cultivation. The lots are often large and isolated from 
neighbors. Typically there is only one access route. Screens of trees 
and fences keep prying eyes and fingers at bay. These features have 
drawn and will continue to draw marijuana cultivators. Whether these 
businesses are legitimate or not is up to the board and their regulations.

Asking a business owner to carry out a 5-mile-wide election is 
designing for failure. One only has to look at the recent example of 
The Grape Tap in Wasilla to see the problems with this approach. The 
new owner of that establishment was quoted in the Frontiersman as 
saying, "I've had people put their dogs out on me."

Personal safety and site security questions aside, the two-thirds 
majority requirement is far too stringent. This issue is not on the 
level of enacting a constitutional amendment or ending a filibuster 
in the Senate. Allowing a minority of residents to limit land use for 
the entire area is not good public policy.

When I finished my testimony, one of the board members asked me if I 
would be more comfortable seeking the permission of my neighbors or 
that of the assembly for the unorganized borough, which is the Alaska 
Legislature. I did not have a good answer to this, and I equivocated. 
Later, I realized why.

The Marijuana Control Board was established, by my neighbors through 
ballot measure and by the Legislature through statute, to grant 
permission on their behalf. Therefore, in an area lacking a local 
government, the only permission that should be required is that of the board.

It was at this point in my reasoning that I realized something else. 
Based on the question, the board must see this provision as a 
necessary concession to those lawmakers who would like to see 
marijuana businesses prohibited in the unorganized borough. If this 
is the case, then it looks, to me, more like capitulation than compromise.

Personally, I feel that the public notice requirements laid out in 
3AAC306.025 are sufficient to protect the public interest anywhere in 
the state. If, however, compromise is called for, then I would like 
to offer a third option. The board should instead require that any 
applicant located in the unorganized borough provide individual 
notification to all permanent residents within a 5-mile radius, 
either in person or by certified mail. The notification should 
include all pertinent information including the proper manner, time 
and place to lodge an objection. The regulation could go even further 
by saying that an objection by 51 percent or more of the residents 
notified would constitute a compelling reason for rejection of the application.

This solution would have many benefits. First, it would change the 
nature of the burden on the business owner from one that is nearly 
insurmountable to something that could be solved with the help of the 
local post office.

Next, it would ensure that all interested parties would be able to 
air their concerns or objections at the proper time and place.

Finally, it would uphold the authority of the Marijuana Control 
Board, leaving the right of refusal in their hands rather than the 
hands of a minority of the applicant's neighbors.

The MCB has stated that their intention is to create a thriving, 
well-regulated market that can assimilate, or at least compete with, 
the current black market. Regulations like 3AAC306.030 do much to 
damage that goal. Placing onerous burdens on entrepreneurs seeking to 
enter the market in the unorganized borough will ensure the 
continuation of criminal enterprises in these areas.

The MCB will accept written comment on the proposed regulations until 
Nov. 11. Emails should be addressed to  ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom