The discussion of if and how to regulate the commercial production and sale of marijuana is under way at the local level, and we’d encourage everyone on all sides of the issue to continue to contribute to the dialogue.
Alaska voters passed Ballot Measure 2 in the Nov. 4 election, which, under state law, legalizes recreational use of marijuana and establishes a framework for regulating its production and sale. Under the new law, municipalities have the option of prohibiting marijuana cultivation, production, testing and retail facilities. Municipalities also may opt to establish ordinances governing when and where a marijuana establishment may operate.
Local municipalities will not have control over personal cultivation and possession of marijuana, though the initiative includes some restrictions.
The law takes effect Feb. 24, 90 days after the November election was certified. State agencies have 9 months to come up with commercial marijuana regulations.
The knee-jerk response to legalization has been to propose municipal bans. There are many who agree with that stance — in fact, central Kenai Peninsula voters just said no on Ballot Measure 2 — but our community will be much better served with a thorough discussion on the topic.
The Kenai Community Coalition on Cannabis hosted a town hall meeting last week to launch the dialogue on what organizer Eric Derleth termed a “more responsible industry.”
It’s important that we as a community be able to lay out our concerns about marijuana and its potential impact in a forum that encourages a rational dialogue. We also need to be able to move past the yes-or-no debate, and come up with guidelines for potential marijuana businesses that address those concerns. With marijuana soon to be legal, the marijuana industry should be given the opportunity to show it can operate responsibly under reasonable regulation.
If, after that discussion, the community feels regulations cannot sufficiently allay our concerns, then an outright ban on commercial activity will be appropriate. But we need to have that open, honest discussion before we decide.