Pubdate: Thu, 05 May 2016
Source: Alaska Dispatch News (AK)
Copyright: 2016 Alaska Dispatch Publishing
Note: Anchorage Daily News until July '14
Author: Zaz Hollander


PALMER -- The Matanuska-Susitna Borough Assembly late Tuesday 
approved a temporary moratorium on all commercial cannabis operations.

The moratorium reflects the Assembly's desire to wait until local 
voters in early October decide a borough-wide ban that includes 
everything but industrial hemp.

The Assembly unanimously put on hold any applications for marijuana 
businesses including cultivation, testing, manufacture and retail 
sales through Oct. 19. But they approved a sunset clause of Aug. 17 
for cultivation.

The rest of the moratorium extends through mid-October, until local 
elections are certified.

Alaska voters legalized recreational marijuana use in 2014, but 
municipalities have the right to opt out. The Valley, known as the 
state's cannabis capital for a long growing tradition and famous 
strains, is already home to several opt-outs: The cities of Wasilla 
and Palmer separately decided not to allow most commercial marijuana 

The city of Houston, however, has developed regulations governing 
cannabis businesses as a way to drum up local revenues.

The Mat-Su Assembly for months has heard from both sides on the 
issue: marijuana entrepreneurs and medical marijuana users urging 
them to let the industry start up before the vote, and cannabis 
critics who say they don't want children to get access and oppose any 
new legal substances.

A 17-member committee nominated by former Borough Mayor Larry 
DeVilbiss -- a backer of the boroughwide ban and the moratorium -- 
developed recommendations for regulations, but the Assembly sent them 
back to the planning commission for additional work.

New regulations could be finished by June, planners say.

Randall Kowalke, who represents Willow on the Assembly, sponsored the 
ban and said he did so over problems regulating commercial businesses 
in residential neighborhoods.

Kowalke said he's concerned about one friend trying to start a 
cannabis business but getting hung up by regulation wording on 
proximity to parks, and another suffering from cancer who uses 
marijuana medicinally but is struggling to obtain it.

Still, he said during the meeting, the moratorium isn't about a 
desire to override the government or voters.

"This is about me wanting a solid plan to go forward," Kowalke said. 
"Can you imagine the hell we're going to have if we just hurry up and 
go forward with this?"
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom