What others say: Clarity on marijuana rules welcome

  • Monday, March 2, 2015 8:58pm
  • Opinion

It took a couple days post-legalization, but Interior municipal governments appear to be on the same page with local marijuana rules. That’s no small feat. With little time to collaborate on rules in Fairbanks, North Pole and the borough at large, the potential existed for serious conflicts between how marijuana could be possessed and used in each of our local communities. Such an outcome would have been a headache for legal professionals to sort out and would have had impacts on local residents confused about the overlaps and discrepancies in municipal rules. Kudos to our local governments for independently coming to common-sense conclusions about what behavior is acceptable among Interior residents.

The role of local government in regulation of personal possession and use of marijuana is chiefly to determine what “public use” of the drug means, as such use is barred under the language of recently enacted Ballot Measure 2. There is considerable latitude as to what is “public” under the law: clearly, property and buildings owned by state and local government would be public. But what of businesses used by the public, especially restaurants or bars where other drugs like alcohol and tobacco are allowed? What about private property in close proximity to public areas, where the drug’s use would be visible and potentially impact members of the public?

In the days leading up to Feb. 24, when personal possession and use of marijuana became legal, the city of Wasilla showed just how broad municipal governments’ interpretation of their authority could be. The Wasilla city government voted Feb. 23 to ban the making of marijuana edibles, concentrates and extracts even within residents’ homes. The source of that level of regulatory authority is unclear under the law, as is the government’s ability to enforce such a ban. Had such restraints been put into effect locally, there would have been serious differences in what behavior was acceptable depending on one’s location in the greater Fairbanks area.

Measures considered by local governments here didn’t conflict a great deal, but there was one major difference between city and borough ordinances as they were originally proposed. While the Fairbanks and North Pole city ordinances allowed for use on private property with consent of the property owner, borough mayor Luke Hopkins proposed that personal use not be allowed within view of public property. That’s a major distinction — if enacted, it would have barred most residents from partaking in cannabis in their yards or property outside their homes visible from public roads. The mayor’s ordinance, however, was amended to be largely in line with the North Pole and Fairbanks rules. As a result, whether you’re in Fairbanks, North Pole or anywhere else in the borough, the rules are the same: you can use marijuana in a private home or on private property so long as that property belongs to you or you have the property owner’s permission.

That simplicity of law not only makes sense and jibes with Alaska sentiment about privacy and property rights, but also has the virtue of being simple enough for residents to easily understand. Despite a short timetable in which to draw up rules and a broad range of views on marijuana in general, our local governments have independently arrived at a common-sense definition of public use. Interior residents will benefit from that clarity and simplicity.

— Fairbanks Daily News-Miner,

Feb. 28

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