Pubdate: Sat, 20 Feb 2016
Source: Alaska Dispatch News (AK)
Copyright: 2016 Alaska Dispatch Publishing
Note: Anchorage Daily News until July '14
Author: Lindianne Sarno
Note: Lindianne Sarno is a music educator in Homer and director of 
the Kachemak Cannabis Coalition, which has an educational mission. 
She also serves on the City of Homer Cannabis Advisory Commission.


Shall Homer City Council ban commercial cannabis cultivation, 
testing, processing and sales from Homer? Already a majority of 
Palmer voters and the Wasilla city council have answered yes to a 
similar question. Others may answer their own way before too long. 
Alaskans and local governments around the state are posing similar 
questions in ordinances and local ballot items. But this question is 
being discussed right now in Homer, and I believe the entire state 
can benefit from listening in on Homer's dialog.

Homer City Council members Heath Smith, Bryan Zak, Donna Aderhold and 
Gus Van Dyke voted to introduce ordinance 1606 to ban commercial 
cannabis. As a director of the Kachemak Cannabis Coalition, I 
interviewed these council members, looking for common ground. We did 
find common ground: We agree (1) that Homer is fundamentally divided 
about cannabis, and (2) that the two sides are working from two 
different sets of facts.

The non-cannabis culture is frightened. Families inexperienced with 
cannabis wonder what to expect from legalization. Concerned about 
alcohol, pot, meth, heroin and the prescription drug epidemic 
currently ravaging American communities, families want to protect 
youths. These families wonder, how will legal pot impact our town? 
Can we prevent cannabis from falling into the hands of our young? 
Marijuana has been viewed as bad and taboo; now suddenly it's legal? 
How do we explain this to our kids?

On the other hand, the cannabis culture sees the opt-out provision 
proposed by council members as a serious form of economic and 
cultural discrimination against a peaceable culture that suffered 
decades of persecution. Just as we welcome, with relief, the end of 
an onerous prohibition, here come local prohibitionists, citing bogus 
studies, stopping economic development and negating Alaskans' vote to 
tax and regulate marijuana like alcohol. Cannabis is an existing 
industry that voted to emerge from the black market to be taxed and 
contribute to the community.

I asked each council member, "What is your essential motive for 
introducing this ordinance to ban?"

Just elected, Heath Smith is looking for ways to represent the entire 
community. He wants us to pause and make sure we understand the 
overall impact of legalization.

Bryan Zak commented: "Legalization is so new to Alaska. Our city will 
be on the leading edge if we allow commercial cannabis cultivation 
and retail sales. Do we clearly understand its impact on the community?"

Gus Van Dyke hopes to keep commercial cannabis out of the city 
because, he said, "We don't need another alcohol-type thing added to 
alcohol; we have a big enough problem with alcohol. I don't have a 
problem with private individual use."

Donna Aderhold aims to provide an opportunity to listen to the 
people. She points out that the statewide vote wasn't a mandate; it 
was 53 percent to 47 percent. She wants to hear from both sides.

I also spoke with Mayor Beth Wythe. Regarding the two different sets 
of facts, Mayor Wythe thinks it's impossible to find a documented 
core truth that everyone can agree on. "On an emotional issue like 
this, people look for information to support their point of view," she said.

But Smith, Zak and Van Dyke, as well as council members Dave Lewis 
and Catriona Reynolds, want to engage in a common search for truth. 
Van Dyke said, "If we can sift through all the stuff we hear and see, 
and come to a true understanding of the relevant facts, I'm all for 
that. If you engage in fact finding, if you can prove or show there 
is no harm to the general public with legalization, that having it 
around, the kids won't be as badly abused as they are around alcohol, 
I would change my mind in a heartbeat."

Let us continue to search for the truth about cannabis, because truth 
sets us free from fear. Here are a few good questions to start the 
process: In what jurisdictions (globally) is cannabis now completely 
legal? After legalization in those jurisdictions, what has been the 
impact on public health? On local culture? On local economy? Can a 
human being overdose and die from cannabis, as Mayor Wythe believes? 
What economic interests are served (1) by banning the cannabis 
industry, or (2) by growing the cannabis industry?

Smith and Van Dyke, Aderhold and Zak asked me to consider, 
separately, (1) the social and public health impact of legalization, 
and (2) the economic impact of cannabis legalization. Accordingly, I 
will produce two more commentaries. Whatever your position, kindly 
send your thoughts and references to studies to me at Alaska's cannabis culture is attempting to respond, respectfully, to 
the concerns, fears and questions of the non-cannabis culture. 
Statistics are compiled by governments. Scientifically valid studies 
are available. I believe we can arrive at one set of facts. I believe 
Alaska communities can unite around a program of public heath 
education that addresses the many serious health issues revolving 
around addiction. Can we not vilify each other; can we calm each 
other's fears and attempt to understand and respect each other in our 
common search for truth?
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom