Pubdate: Tue, 05 Apr 2016
Source: Alaska Dispatch News (AK)
Copyright: 2016 Alaska Dispatch Publishing
Note: Anchorage Daily News until July '14
Author: Laurel Andrews


Voters on the Kenai Peninsula may decide whether to ban commercial 
marijuana within the borough, should an Assembly ordinance move forward.

On Tuesday, the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly will hear public 
testimony on the ordinance and hold a vote to introduce it. The 
ordinance is sponsored by Assembly President Blaine Gilman, who said 
Monday he expects a large public turnout and lengthy testimony Tuesday evening.

Under the ordinance, voters would decide whether to ban all four 
marijuana license types -- growers, retail stores, manufacturers and 
testing facilities -- in the borough.

The 2014 statewide vote to commercialize marijuana was "real close" 
on the Peninsula, Gilman said, so he wants to bring the issue back 
before borough voters.

Cities on the Peninsula, including Homer and Kenai, would not be 
affected by the ban. Soldotna's city council has already banned 
commercial marijuana through January 2018. In Homer, a petition has 
been filed that would also ask voters to decide on a ban in October's election.

The Kenai borough already has local laws in place that would regulate 
the industry, including specifying hours of operation and setting a 
school buffer zone at 1,000 feet. Gilman was part of the Marijuana 
Task Force that studied the industry.

"I did vote for the regulations because we needed some sort of 
regulations in the void," Gilman said.

Paul Ostrander, chief of staff in the borough mayor's office, said he 
was "a little surprised" when he first heard about the ordinance 
given the substantial work to create the regulations.

"The timing could have been better," Ostrander said.

Gilman said he drafted the ordinance after hearing "strong testimony" 
against commercialization during public comment about a zoning 
ordinance in February and March.

"There are people who live outside the cities that are very 
concerned," Gilman said.

"Why it took them a year (to speak out) I don't know, but they're 
becoming vocal," he added later.

The ordinance came as a surprise to Marc Theiler, a potential 
marijuana business owner who also sat on the borough's Marijuana Task 
Force, he wrote in a Facebook message Monday.

Theiler called the ordinance "sneaky" and "underhanded."

"Our Task Force worked diligently to provide the Assembly with 
reasonable, workable tools. We convened for nearly a year and 
entertained countless public comment," most of which was 
pro-industry, Theiler wrote.

"Good people are investing their life savings and pouring their heart 
and souls into their marijuana startup, and Gilman thinks nothing of 
these small business owners." Theiler wrote.

Theiler, who hopes to open a retail store within Kenai city limits, 
said his business would not be affected save having to purchase 
marijuana from cultivators outside of the borough.

Gilman said that starting a marijuana business is a "risky venture" 
and noted that local governments have the right to opt out of 

Gilman is personally against both the commercialization and 
legalization of marijuana, he said Monday afternoon. Should his 
ordinance be put on the ballot, "I suspect that voters outside the 
cities will defeat commercial marijuana," he said.

The Assembly will hear testimony and vote on introducing the 
ordinance Tuesday. Should the ordinance be introduced, it would be up 
for another public hearing and vote on May 3. It would then be placed 
on the Oct. 4 ballot.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom