Kenai to hold work session on commercial marijuana

Editor’s note: This story has been changed to reflect the accurate date for an upcoming cannabis meting, it is in June. 

The Kenai City Council has decided the time is right to consider the prospect of cannabis businesses in Kenai. The council will hold a work session about commercial cannabis on Tuesday, June 16 at the Kenai Council Chambers.

At a June 3 council meeting, Kenai City Attorney Scott Bloom recommended the city address the issue in a council work session.

“I think it’s time, in my opinion, for council to start providing at least some general direction to administration,” Bloom said. “I think that would be of benefit to our Planning and Zoning Commission, so they can start looking at new ordinances pertaining to zoning issues with regard to this business. I think given the time frame and the way things are moving, it is time for our council to start acting on this issue.”

At the June 16 work session, Bloom will present what he knows about the current shape of developing state marijuana regulations, and what Kenai’s options for marijuana control will be under those regulations.

Members of the Kenai council have previously spoken generally about commercial cannabis, but the council has postponed formal talk or action in the absence of definite state-level marijuana law. Bloom said that advances by the state make this a more fruitful time for discussion.

“I’ve discouraged council in the past from jumping too far ahead of what the state was doing, but at this point we’re looking at commercial legalization within a year,” Bloom said. “The state legislature didn’t really pass any legislation this year regarding marijuana, aside from creating a marijuana control board.”

Alaska will begin giving out business licenses for prospective cannabis entrepreneurs in May 2016. Although the legislature created a marijuana control board in May, it doesn’t yet have members. State-level marijuana regulation is managed by the Alcohol Control Board, which, in addition to emergency regulations adopted when marijuana legalization went into effect in February 2015, has created a set of draft regulations that will be open to public comment until June 20.

“I don’t know of anything that we, as a city, will provide comments on, but I think (the draft regulations) will be of great interest to the city,” Bloom said.

The draft regulations up for comment allow local governments to prohibit sale, cultivation, importing, and manufacture of marijuana products under their jurisdiction by ballot initiative or proposition, or by council ordinance. They also allow a municipality to operate as the sole marijuana retailer within its boundaries.

Kenai mayor Pat Porter said Kenai should begin considering how it might use these regulations.

“I think it’s very important for us to be proactive in our community because there may be some gaps we do not like in what the state is proposing,” Porter said.

Kenai’s April 16 work session will be open to the public, although council members said it is not meant to be a venue for residents to speak to city government on the issue. Nonetheless, there will be a brief public comment period after the presentation and council discussion, and the council may hold a later meeting for public discussion on the issue.

 

Reach Ben Boettger at ben.boettger@peninsulaclarion.com

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