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New Assembly committee will look at legal marijuana sales in Anchorage

  • Author: Suzanna Caldwell
  • Updated: September 28, 2016
  • Published December 19, 2014

The Anchorage Assembly has formed a committee whose sole focus is to consider the implementation of marijuana sales.

Assembly Chair Dick Traini announced Friday that the committee will look at regulation and taxation of the cultivation, manufacture and commercial sale of marijuana in Anchorage. Assemblyman Ernie Hall will chair the committee, which also includes Assembly members Pete Petersen, Amy Demboski and Paul Honeman.

It's the latest move by the city in response to Ballot Measure 2, the initiative that legalized recreational marijuana in Alaska. Creation of the committee comes days after the Assembly heard four hours of public testimony on an ordinance that would have banned commercial marijuana in the municipality. The measure, introduced by Demboski and co-sponsored by Honeman and Traini, was defeated 9-2.

Following public testimony on that proposal, members of the Assembly indicated they wanted a committee created to deal with marijuana.

Traini said the new committee will advise the Assembly on how to move forward with potential legislation.

"There's a lot of things we need to discuss …," Traini said. "This is a whole new creature."

Hall said first up will be figuring out the city's role in the rulemaking process. The state has nine months to craft regulations after the initiative goes into effect Feb. 24. Currently, the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Board is tasked with writing those rules, though the Legislature has the authority to create a separate marijuana control board.

The Legislature also has the authority to amend the initiative, in effect giving further guidance to whichever board is in charge of writing regulations.

But the city will have its own responsibilities in dealing with marijuana, including how to deal with conditional-use permits in a manner similar to the way the city handles alcohol.

"We have to follow the regulations the way it's written but that doesn't mean we can't get more stringent," Hall said.

With at least a year before even the first marijuana business licenses could be applied for, Hall appeared confident in the work the city will do on the issue.

"We really have a lot of time here to do this and do it right," Hall said, "as well as learn from any mistakes that may have been made in Washington or Colorado and what we need to do to help deal with things they've seen as problems."

The first meeting of the committee is set for noon Dec. 23 at City Hall, Room 240.

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