Marijuana regulations need to be balanced

  • Thursday, February 26, 2015 4:58pm
  • Opinion

There has been a flurry of headlines regarding marijuana over the past week as lawmakers and regulators attempt to address the legalization of the drug for recreational use, which took effect Tuesday.

There are a number of issues yet to be clarified, but it will require some give and take to come up with measures that everyone involved can live with.

At the state level, the Legislature on Wednesday introduced a preliminary plan for regulating the commercial marijuana industry. According to the Associated Press, the bill details the types of marijuana-related business licenses that would be available, specifies that they can only be granted to Alaska residents and includes ways for communities to control local licensing decisions.

Also this week, Alcoholic Beverage Control Board released a definition for “in public” — the voter initiative legalizing marijuana prohibits its use in public, but did not provide a definition — and lawmakers continue to work on measures to address personal use and state law.

Meanwhile, the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly voted down a measure that would have given voters the opportunity to weigh in on whether commercial cultivation should be allowed in the borough’s unincorporated areas, and the Soldotna City Council postponed a vote on an ordinance to regulate marijuana in the city. The Kenai City Council has a marijuana ordinance on its agenda for next week’s meeting.

Already, some of the debates have been heated — when is the last time nine people testified on an issue before the assembly, never mind the 90 that commented on Tuesday? — as one side or another proposes an all-or-nothing regulatory solution.

However, the fact of the matter is that there are almost as many different viewpoints on marijuana as there are people in our community. The peninsula as a whole was evenly split on the legalization initiative in last November’s election. That means that developing regulatory measures is going to require some compromise, with reasonable restrictions and reasonable allowances. Outright bans are going to be met with opposition, as will a laissez-faire attitude from local governments.

We encourage lawmakers, regulators and members of the community to continue to work toward regulations that protect communities but still allow for reasonable access to what is now a legal substance.

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