A closeup of one of the marijuana plants at Greatland Ganja in Kasilof, Alaska, as seen on March 19, 2019. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)

A closeup of one of the marijuana plants at Greatland Ganja in Kasilof, Alaska, as seen on March 19, 2019. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)

Assembly streamlines process for marijuana establishment license applications

License applications will now go straight to the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly for consideration

Applications for marijuana establishment licenses will now go straight to the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly for consideration. Those applications were previously first considered by the Kenai Peninsula Borough Planning Commission before the assembly.

Assembly members unanimously approved the change during their Tuesday night meeting.

Kenai Peninsula Borough Planning Director Robert Ruffner wrote in a June 23 memo to assembly members that review of marijuana establishment license applications by the borough planning commission “is an unnecessary additional regulatory step.” The borough’s planning department will still provide a report to ensure the application complies with local ordinances, Ruffner wrote.

“It is duplicative to have the Planning Commission hold public hearings on applications for marijuana establishment license applications and also have the Assembly hold a public hearing on the same application when, ultimately, the Assembly is the body that provides a nonbinding recommendation to the Marijuana Control Board,” Ruffner wrote.

The same ordinance also aligns the borough’s definition of marijuana establishments with the definition used by the State of Alaska, Ruffner wrote. Per state statute, the phrase “marijuana establishment” includes marijuana cultivation, testing and manufacturing facilities, as well as retail marijuana stores.

Assembly member Jesse Bjorkman voiced during Tuesday’s meeting his support for the legislation, which he said more closely aligns with the borough’s liquor license policies. The borough does not require a recommendation from the planning commission for liquor license application and renewals.

“There are plenty of regulations surrounding alcohol and making sure that those businesses behave in a responsible way, and those same regulations and similar should be used to regulate marijuana businesses,” Bjorkman said. “This move by the assembly is a step in the right direction to continue to move toward regulating marijuana businesses like alcohol.”

Tuesday’s meeting of the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly can be streamed on the borough website at kpb.us.

Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at ashlyn.ohara@peninsulaclarion.com.

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