Kenai’s City Attorney Scott Bloom attended the Kenai Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center’s luncheon on Wednesday afternoon to discuss the regulation of marijuana in the city of Kenai.
Bloom said that while there are many things the city of Kenai knows about the legalization of marijuana, there are also many questions that have yet to be answered.
Due to Proposition 2, which was passed last November, marijuana for personal use among users 21 years of age or older will become legal in Alaska in late February 2015. Commercial sale, cultivation and manufacturing involving marijuana will become legal in early 2016.
Bloom said that the State of Alaska has nine months from the effective date of the act to enact regulations and that the Alaska Alcohol and Beverage Control Board could be in charge of making regulations. However, a Marijuana Control Board may be formed instead.
“(The ABC Board) think that they’re the right board to handle it because they have the expertise based on their regulation of alcohol,” Bloom said. “They also think there is no way the state can move fast enough to create a new board and appoint people and get it up and running in time to meet the deadline imposed by the statutes.”
On a local level, the city of Kenai will be able to impose local control over commercial sales, but there will be no local control over personal use.
Regarding the commercial sale of marijuana in the city of Kenai, there are two ways to control it, said Bloom.
“One is by a voter initiative,” he said. “So, anybody who’s a resident of Kenai can write an initiative, which is essentially a law, get 300 people to sign it, approximately, and that question will be voted on either at a regular or special election. Also, the Kenai City Council, by ordinance, can decide to regulate commercial sales of marijuana as well as cultivation and manufacturing.”
Bloom said the city has the power to enforce a total ban of commercial sales, or to allow certain types of commercial activities. The city will also be able to control where those types of activities are permitted.
Statewide, smoking marijuana in public will be illegal, which is problematic, Bloom said.
“The statutes don’t define public, and I think that’s one thing we need to get a handle on,” he said.
Bloom said that other questions need to be addressed by the state. These include the enforcement of driving while under the influence, traveling with marijuana on boats and planes, and depositing money earned from commercial sales into banks.
“One of the big differences between what we voted on in Alaska and what has been voted on in Colorado and Washington is, in Alaska, we only voted on a very bare bones framework for legalization,” Bloom said. “The details haven’t been worked out, yet.”
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