Pubdate: Sat, 30 Jul 2016
Source: Fairbanks Daily News-Miner (AK)
Copyright: 2016 Fairbanks Publishing Company, Inc.
Author: James F. Ostlind
Note: James F. Ostlind has been a borough resident for 44 years. He 
is the founder of Drug-Free Fairbanks.


Although the initiative to prohibit marijuana business in the 
Fairbanks North Star Borough outside of cities will not appear on 
this October's ballot, there are issues that still remain very 
problematic. In addition, Mr. Travis Fraser's community perspective 
of July 17, "Marijuana petition seeks to overturn voters' wishes," 
deserves a response.

On Nov. 4, 2014, statewide voters adopted Proposition 2, which 
provided for the legalization and commercialization of marijuana in 
Alaska. The vote was 53 percent in favor and 47 percent against. How 
that result was arrived at should be of concern to all Alaskans. 
Those Alaskans opposing Prop. 2 spent a total of $267,612 to defeat 
it. The other side, supporting Prop. 2, included two powerful drug 
advocacy groups based in Washington, D.C.: Marijuana Policy Project 
and Drug Policy Alliance. They contributed $855,350 to promote the 
passage of Prop. 2. How much support for this issue was mobilized 
with $855,350?

Do you think the outcome of that election represents the will of the 
people? We've already had enough trouble with Outsiders telling us 
how to manage our resource development, hunting and fishing, energy 
use, home heating, environment and on and on. Now, here comes Big 
Marijuana telling us what our drug laws should be.

The same law that legalized marijuana use and commercialization 
created the local-option provision. All municipalities have the 
option to accept, restrict or prohibit altogether marijuana 
businesses through ordinance or voter initiative. This power may be 
exercised starting with the implementation of the law and at any time 
thereafter. The exercise of the local option has nothing to do with 
attempting to "overturn the voters' wishes."

Our Borough Assembly does not reflect the will of local voters.

According to Mr. Fraser,

55 percent of local voters supported Prop. 2. The percentage of 
support for the marijuana industry on the Borough Assembly is far 
higher at 78 percent (seven out of nine members). As a result, we 
have marijuana businesses going into residential neighborhoods 
because of inadequate zoning protection. In addition, every single 
conditional-use permit for marijuana businesses has been approved 
even though the people living near them attended hearings and nearly 
all voiced legitimate complaints about health, safety and 
quality-of-life issues.

Concerns about increased traffic, noise, light pollution, law 
enforcement availability/effectiveness (the borough has no police 
power, so Alaska State Troopers will be responding, when available), 
degradation of residential environment and so forth were ignored or 
dismissed as inconsequential. Residents disappointed with the outcome 
of conditional-use permit hearings who have taken their concerns 
directly to the assembly have been met with the same lack of 
interest. Additionally, permits have been issued to marijuana 
businesses that are in violation of local and/or state buffer 
regulations. These were documented in a Community Perspective by 
Assemblyman Lance Roberts appearing June 21 in the Daily News-Miner. 
When these violations were brought to the attention of the 
administration, they refused to take action to rescind them or at 
least notify the state marijuana board that such violations existed.

What's ahead for Alaska when Big Marijuana takes control?

Colorado's Initiative 139 experience may be instructional. Recently, 
a state voter initiative was introduced in Colorado to make 
improvements to that state's recreational marijuana regulations. 
Three new regulations were listed: require child-proof containers; 
require health warning labels; limit THC potency to 16 percent. The 
marijuana industry didn't like these restrictions and sued to stop 
the initiative.

Eventually, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled in favor of the 
initiative supporters. By then there wasn't enough time for 
volunteers to collect the nearly 98,000 signatures needed to put the 
initiative on the ballot by the Aug. 8 deadline. Backers of the 
initiative raised money to hire signature firms to collect the 
signatures. The marijuana industry offered to pay the signature 
companies a lot of money to sign contracts saying they wouldn't get 
signatures for Imitative 139 and started buying them off. This 
process repeated itself over and over until the initiative backers 
finally gave up. An excellent editorial more fully explaining this 
issue appeared in the Colorado Springs Gazette on July 8, 2016.

The collection of signatures for both the Fairbanks borough and city 
of Fairbanks initiatives prohibiting marijuana businesses will 
continue at our booth at the Tanana Valley State Fair, which runs 
Aug. 5-14. While these initiatives won't appear on the ballot until 
October 2017, we are working hard to have them available to the 
voters. If the marijuana industry turns out to be a good thing for 
Fairbanks and the borough, then these ballot measure will fail. If 
the marijuana industry doesn't work well in our communities, then 
your investment of a few minutes to sign one of the petitions will 
have been one of the best investments of time you ever made for your community.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom