Kenai may vote on pot moratorium Jan. 6

While current state marijuana regulations will allow marijuana consumption in designated areas of licensed marijuana retail stores, a proposal from Kenai Mayor Pat Porter would prohibit such consumption.

Porter’s marijuana moratorium may be introduced at Wednesday’s Kenai City Council meeting, putting it up for a public hearing and the council’s vote on Jan. 6.

Similar to the marijuana moratorium Soldotna enacted on Dec. 9, Porter’s proposed ban is temporary. It would be effective for a year, “unless terminated sooner or extended by ordinance of the city council,” according to the ordinance text, while the Soldotna moratorium will remain for 2 years.

Unlike Soldotna’s ban, which prohibits all licensed marijuana establishments from operating in the city until January 2018, Porter’s narrower proposal prohibits marijuana consumption in retail stores where it may be licensed by the state, and commits the council to filing a protest to the director of the state’s Marijuana Control Board if a marijuana store that proposes on-site consumption applies for a license to operate in Kenai. Such a protest is allowed under the current regulations, which state “if a local government protests an application … the board will deny the application unless the board finds that the protest is arbitrary, capricious, and unreasonable.”

“This is a way for us to allow the marijuana retail stores in our community — if the council decides to do that — without the smoking in them,” Porter said.

She added she had targeted the moratorium toward retail consumption at the recommendation of city administration.

If the state creates a license for marijuana clubs — a members-only establishment in which members bring marijuana to share and use — the moratorium will require the city to file the same protest. Current regulations do not explicitly mention the clubs, although they don’t include them among the four licensable types of marijuana establishments, thus forbidding them with the condition that a “marijuana establishment may not operate in the state unless it has obtained the applicable marijuana establishment license from the board.”

This language resolves the ambiguity that previously allowed marijuana clubs to exist as unlicensed establishments that weren’t expressly forbidden — an ambiguity that troubled Kenai’s former marijuana club, Green Rush Events. According to previous Clarion reporting, Green Rush Events received a cease-and-desist letter from then-Alcohol Control Board Director Cynthia Franklin (the Alcohol Control Board regulated marijuana before establishment of the Marijuana Control Board), who took the position that the club was illegal because no license existed for it.

In a Dec. 2 interview, Green Rush Events owner Joshua Bird said the club had since closed because of the confusion surrounding the developing marijuana regulations.

“I’m getting sick of the harassment,” Bird said, “I have a wife and kids I have to take care of so I can’t be sitting in court wasting time over something so stupid.”

Bird said he planned to re-open the club, which he said had 800 members when it closed, once state and local regulations are finalized. Bird said he plans to add a dispensary to the existing building in order to be eligible for a license, and wouldn’t mind moving locations if zoning becomes an official problem. Bird could not be reached for updated comments.

In the event that marijuana clubs remain ineligible for licensing but are determined not to be forbidden by Alaska, the proposed ordinance states that “the City may seek any available injunctive remedy in the Superior Court … against a Marijuana Club that allows, encourages or provides for the consumption of marijuana or marijuana products on its non-licensed premises.”

At the time of Green Rush’s cease-and-desist letter, Porter took the position with Franklin that marijuana clubs weren’t legal, a position she maintains.

“The marijuana clubs currently aren’t legal,” Porter said. “But the state legislature may come back and make them legal. Like the marijuana club that was here before, we had no mechanism to close them down, because we didn’t have an ordinance. This would give us that ordinance should they come and operate illegally.”

Because Kenai ordinances take effect 30 days after being passed by council, the council’s Jan. 20 meeting is their last chance to have regulations in effect before state commercial marijuana licensing opens on Feb. 24. Since ordinances must be introduced at the meeting before their hearing and vote, Jan. 6 is the last meeting in which marijuana regulations could be introduced to meet the licensing deadline.

If state-permitted marijuana businesses open in Kenai before city regulations are in place, those businesses may be retroactively exempt from additional city restrictions.

“It’s a little bit of a wait-and-see, without us being behind the ball in taking action on that,” Porter said of her moratorium.

Before the council votes on Porter’s moratorium proposal, it will discuss its general marijuana policy at a work session on Dec. 17.


Megan Pacer contributed to this report.

Reach Ben Boettger at

More in News

Signs direct voters at the Kenai No. 3 precinct on Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion file)
Signs direct voters at the Kenai No. 3 precinct for Election Day on Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
Local candidates report support from state PACs

Labor unions and the National Education Association are among the groups putting money into Kenai Peninsula state election races

Signs and examples on the recycling super sack at the Cook Inletkeeper Community Action Studio show which plastics are desired as part of the project in Soldotna, Alaska, on Aug. 11, 2022. Plastics from types 1, 2, 4 and 5 can be deposited.(Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Local nonprofit accepting plastics for synthetic lumber project

The super sack receptacles can be found on either side of Soldotna

This July 28, 2022, photo shows drag queen Dela Rosa performing in a mock election at Cafecito Bonito in Anchorage, Alaska, where people ranked the performances by drag performers. Several organizations are using different methods to teach Alaskans about ranked choice voting, which will be used in the upcoming special U.S. House election. (AP Photo/Mark Thiessen)
Groups get creative to help Alaska voters with ranked voting

Organizations have gotten creative in trying to help voters understand how to cast their ballot, as the mock election featuring drag performers shows

A school bus outside of Kenai Central High School advertises driver positions on Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Staff shortage, gas prices change school bus routes

The changes do not apply to the district’s special education students

The cast of “Tarzan” rides the Triumvirate Theatre float during the Independence Day parade in downtown Kenai, Alaska on Monday, July 4, 2022. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
The show goes on as Triumvirate seeks funding for new theater

The troupe has staged shows and events and is looking to debut a documentary as it raise funds for new playhouse

Aaron Surma, the executive director for National Alliance on Mental Illness Juneau and the Juneau Suicide Prevention Coalition, leads a safety plan workshop Tuesday night hosted by NAMI and the Juneau Suicide Prevention Coalition. The workshop was a collaborative brainstorming session with Juneau residents about how to create a safety plan that people can use to help someone who is experiencing a mental health or suicide crisis. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)
Study shows a rise in anxiety and depression among children in Alaska

Increase may indicate growing openness to discussing mental health, according to experts

Alaska Lieutenant Governor Kevin Meyer addresses election information and misinformation during a press conference on Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2022. (Screenshot)
With a week to go, officials work to clear up election confusion

Officials provided updated ballot statistics, fielded questions from reporters and clarified misconceptions about the current election cycle

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
State reports 21 new COVID deaths; cases down from last week

20 of the reported deaths took place from May to July

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

Most Read