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Alaska Marijuana News

Bill would ban commercial pot in unorganized borough, set plant limit

  • Author: Laurel Andrews
  • Updated: September 28, 2016
  • Published February 25, 2016

A bill circulating in the Legislature would ban commercial marijuana in the unorganized borough and would set the personal marijuana grow limit for all Alaskans at 12 plants per household.

House Bill 75 passed the Senate Wednesday, 18-2. The bill addresses local option law and plant limits and would authorize national background checks on potential marijuana business owners.

Commercial marijuana grows, retail, manufacturing and testing would all be banned in any place that does not have a local or borough government, unless an individual community votes to allow it.

Unincorporated places like Tok and Glennallen would be covered by the ban. Towns with local government, like Bethel, Adak and Hooper Bay, would not be affected.

"The elders of the community are going to be more involved in the dialogue of why this shouldn't happen," Sen. Lyman Hoffman, D-Bethel said Wednesday.

To opt back in, unincorporated towns and villages would need to petition at least 35 percent of registered voters in the community to bring the issue to a special election, according to the bill.

The unorganized borough comprises a large swath of land in the Interior, Western and Southwest Alaska where there is no borough government. The Legislature acts as the assembly for any unincorporated community.

"The vote was so close, so why not take the more deliberate view -- leaving the dialogue at the local level?" Hoffman said.

Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux, R-Anchorage, disagreed. "I think it's a terrible idea," LeDoux said of the proposed ban. The move counters the will of the people, she said.

LeDoux is the chair of the House Judiciary Committee, where a bill containing similar language stalled last session.

LeDoux said the ban provision was "one of the major reasons that the bill stalled" and balked at the idea that the language was added to a separate bill.

"Generally speaking, we don't allow that, and that's just tradition. If one bill is sitting in committee and it hasn't moved … you can't jam that language into another bill," LeDoux said.

Alaskans would also have a personal grow limit of 12 plants per household, six of which could be flowering at one time, should the bill become law.

The bill includes language allowing for local option law. Unincorporated towns and villages currently do not have the power to opt out of commercial marijuana due to the language of Alaska's initiative, according to Cynthia Franklin, Alcoholic Beverage and Marijuana Control Office director. The Legislature must add that language to state law before a village can do so.

Also included is language authorizing national background checks on potential business owners by submitting fingerprints to the FBI. The Marijuana Control Board had attempted to add this requirement to its own regulations, but was told by the Department of Law that it did not have that power. Adding the requirement was one of the board's requests to the Legislature.

House Bill 75 will return to the state House Friday morning.

Reporter Nathaniel Herz contributed to this story.

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