Alaska Marijuana Board Hears Competing Interests on Local Control
In Alaska, the rule making process for marijuana is slowly moving forward as the state Marijuana Control Board moves toward the final stretch of the second regulatory round. At the heart of the process is the struggle to balance the concerns of local towns and villages with the legitimate business concerns of the industry at large.
In the second round of regulations, most of the rules being considered by the Alaska Marijuana Control Board have been received with approval or indifference. However, on the issue of local control, the reaction was less than harmonious. Cities and municipalities want greater local control over how marijuana businesses are regulated.
At a city meeting on August 3, 2015, the City and Borough of Juneau Committee of the Whole voted to send a letter to the Marijuana Control Board asking for more local control. The letter emphasized that the following three legal elements be left up to the local governments: the setting of buffers, the size and location of signs advertising the establishment, and the option to permit consumption on licensed premises.
Most industry insiders would not begrudge these small points of control to the local authorities, but buried within the second set of regulations are other points that some in the industry will likely oppose.
In a letter to John Calder at the Alcoholic Beverage Control board, the Former Chairman of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, Tim Hinterberger, outlined what he perceived to be the objectionable parts of the proposed rules.
For example, local governments could “protest” an application for a new license, renewal of a license, or the transfer of a license. The board would only deny a protest if the business could prove that the protest was “arbitrary, capricious, and unreasonable,” putting the burden of proof on the business itself.
Another potentially contentious provision prevents individuals from giving marijuana to one another without a license, which directly contradicts Measure 2, the ballot initiative that legalized marijuana in Alaska.
In addition to the previous points, there are several portions of the law that require businesses to be within compliance of federal law when it comes to waste disposal or federal taxes. However, as marijuana is federally illegal, requiring marijuana businesses to be in accordance with federal law creates a likely untenable position for business owners.
Fortunately for both sides of the debate, the board has yet to vote on the second set of regulations and the public still has an opportunity to provide commentary on the issue. The public commentary period will come to a close on August 10, 2015, when the board meets to hear testimony from the public and law enforcement. The board will vote on the second set of regulations in September.
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