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Anchorage Assembly votes 9-2 to oppose marijuana ballot measure

The Anchorage Assembly on Tuesday voted 9-2 to approve a resolution opposing a ballot measure to legalize recreational marijuana use in Alaska.

The resolution, introduced Friday by Assemblyman Dick Traini, cited potential pitfalls of legalization in Alaska including conflicts with marijuana enforcement at the federal level, the safety of edibles products with regard to children, and costs related to schools and law enforcement.

On Tuesday night, two other Assemblymen, Paul Honeman and Tim Steele, signed on as co-sponsors of the measure.

Assembly Chair Patrick Flynn and Northeast Anchorage Assemblyman Pete Petersen cast the "no" votes. Both said they did not feel the Assembly should be taking a stance on ballot initiatives.

Members of the Assembly who voted "yes" on the resolution echoed Flynn's and Petersen's concerns.

"I'm generally a bit troubled by us taking positions on ballot measures," Assembly member Bill Evans said. An Assembly vote, he added, "really does not have anything behind it other than (a) poll of our own personal attitudes."

In a release before the vote Tuesday, the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in Alaska objected to a resolution, saying Traini "colluded" with the opposition campaign on the measure. "Yes" campaign political director Chris Rempert called the Assembly's decision to vote on the resolution "wildly premature" given members held no work sessions or public hearings on the item. Rempert also criticized some of the points made in the resolution as lacking context or misstating facts.

After the vote, Rempert expressed frustrations over perceived lobbying of Assembly members by the "no" campaign.

"The voters of Anchorage deserve better, " Rempert said in an emailed statement. "(Traini) has touted the need for transparency in government, but it appears he's OK with keeping Anchorage voters in the dark if he believes it will benefit him politically."

In a phone interview before the meeting, Traini said the resolution was included as part of the Assembly's "consent agenda," which doesn't involve public testimony.

Flynn also said in a pre-meeting interview that the absence of work sessions or public hearings is typical for a resolution, which does not deal with the allocation of money.

The resolution was reviewed by the city's ethics board. On the recommendation of the board, Traini said, language was removed urging people to cast a "no" vote on the ballot measure in November.

Traini said the resolution, drafted by Assembly attorney Julia Tucker after she spoke with attorneys in Colorado, is simply a gauge of the 11-member body's stance on the issue.

"My theory is if we had public comment, we would have what we had with (the city labor law), AO-37, where you would have nights of people saying 'I'm right; no, I'm right,' " Traini said. "It's just easier to let the Assembly decide."

Traini is a volunteer member of the Big Marijuana. Big Mistake. Vote No on 2 campaign coordinating committee. He also donated $100 to the campaign in July.

Honeman said Tuesday night he plans to approach the Vote No on 2 campaign to offer his volunteer services as well.

A spokesman for the Vote No on 2 campaign said after the vote Tuesday that the campaign was pleased with the Assembly resolution. It was the latest in a series of government entities, including the cities of Ketchikan and Haines and the Bristol Bay Borough, to come out in opposition to the measure.

"We're excited that the Anchorage Assembly sees what we believe most Alaskans are seeing: that Outside interests should not be telling Alaskans how to vote for marijuana," said the spokesman, Charles Fedullo.

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