Legal marijuana plant in Colorado. Brett Levin/Flickr
If Kodiak residents have a strong opinion about marijuana businesses in the city and villages, it’s time to start voicing it. Next month, the Marijuana Control Board will start accepting applications for marijuana business licenses. At the Kodiak City Council and Kodiak Island Borough Assembly’s joint work session last night, Cindy Franklin, the Director of the Alcoholic Beverage and Marijuana Control Boards, gave an update on the marijuana control board and its regulation creating process.
Franklin pointed out that the federal government, state of Alaska, and local governments all have a say in the marijuana industry. But, ultimately, marijuana is a federally controlled substance.
“And the feds are allowing the states to experiment upon certain conditions. The consequence, punishment if you will, if we don’t please the feds with our regulations, is that they will walk into our state license establishments where people have invested all their money and their lifetime dream and their business, and they will arrest those people.”
States can create modifications to existing rules. For instance, the federal drug free school zone is 1000 feet, which means you cannot establish a drug business within 1000 feet from a school. Franklin explains Alaska’s minimum buffer zone is smaller.
“We have some rural areas where 1000 feet around each school would put you completely out of town, right? And so we looked at that early on and said if we say 1000 feet, we’re just going to be basically prohibiting whole communities from having any place in the community where they can issue these licenses, so we began work on sort of an Alaska alternative to that.”
As a result, Alaska’s drug free school zone is 500 feet. Another regulation the board has implemented regards edibles, which can contain a deceptively large amount of THC, the chemical which causes marijuana’s effects. Edibles can be tricky for people new to marijuana. While you should only eat one cookie, it’s easy for someone unaware of the effects to accidently eat three or four cookies. Or a whole chocolate bar instead of the one square of chocolate. That could lead to a bad experience.
Franklin spoke about edibles and the marijuana industry’s interest in marketing them to tourists.
“Well, have you seen our tourists, anybody? I mean, they don’t really look like they have a lot of experience with edible marijuana for the most part. And so we really, really tried to hold the line here and we did something new here that’s different from the new thing we did in the drug-free school zone, which is make our edible serving size limit half as large as the other states.”
And just as the state can fine-tune its rules, so can communities. Local governments can determine the number of marijuana establishments in their jurisdiction, choose who gets a license, and otherwise control the presence of the marijuana industry in their communities. They can also choose to opt out. In the Kodiak Archipelago, the different communities and the city of Kodiak all have that right.
At the meeting, Kodiak Island Borough Assemblyman Mel Stephens asked – hypothetically – if the borough opted out, but the city did not, would the borough’s decision override the city’s?
Franklin said it would not.
“The privileges afforded to a local government in the opt-out provisions would not… kind of… have a big fish eating a littler fish. And so the borough can opt out for the borough limits, but the city has its own local government which can make its decision for the city.”
Should Kodiak’s communities decide not to opt out, the Marijuana Control Board will begin accepting applications for marijuana business licenses on February 24.