Pubdate: Wed, 13 Jan 2016
Source: Alaska Dispatch News (AK)
Copyright: 2016 Alaska Dispatch Publishing
Note: Anchorage Daily News until July '14
Author: Zaz Hollander


WASILLA -- Wasilla's bid to prohibit marijuana businesses inside city 
limits took a step forward Monday night.

The city council voted to set an amendment to Wasilla's marijuana 
regulations for public hearing on Jan. 25. The amendment would ban 
retail storefronts and commercial cultivation of marijuana in 
Wasilla. The city already bans marijuana clubs and manufacturing 
edibles for sale or commercial use.

If the measure is implemented, Wasilla will join Palmer in banning 
commercial marijuana businesses. Palmer voters approved such a ban 
last year. Selling and growing marijuana is still legal in Houston 
and the rest of the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, though Valley voters 
will get the chance to decide on a boroughwide ban this fall.

The state's voters in November 2014 approved Ballot Measure 2, 
legalizing recreational marijuana in Alaska. Licenses allowing for 
the sale of cannabis products to adults are expected to be issued 
beginning in May.

Wasilla officials who back the proposed regulations point out that 
city residents voted against legalization by about 450 votes.

But critics say a retail ban will fuel Wasilla's already thriving 
black market, deprive local officials of control over a new industry 
that could draw tourists and cut out a new source of future taxes and jobs.

Sara Williams, an industry advocate who chairs the borough's 
17-member marijuana advisory committee, told the council Monday that 
the business she plans to open is expected to generate 10 jobs and a 
little over $100,000 in annual taxes.

"I know that could fund another salary for a police officer here in 
Wasilla," said Williams, CEO of a business called Midnight Greenery.

It's already as easy to buy pot as it is to order pizza in Wasilla, 
longtime resident Keith Searles told the council.

Searles said he lives in Wasilla and drives to his father's home just 
outside city limits on Wasilla-Fishhook Road. His father suffers from 
Alzheimer's disease, Searles told the group. Some research indicates 
that cannabis can help treat the degenerative cognitive condition.

"It would be nice if I could stop at a store on my way to see him 
rather than having to resort to buying substandard medicine from 
criminals on the black market," he said.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom