Alaska Marijuana News

Wasilla enacts strict new marijuana rules as legalization dawns

WASILLA -- Monday, on the eve of marijuana legalization in Alaska, the Wasilla City Council banned making pot brownies at home.

Fewer than three hours before recreational marijuana use became legal across the state, the city known for a freewheeling attitude about everything from big box stores to ATVs passed what may at least for now be the strictest local laws governing recreational pot use in Alaska.

The council with a 4-2 vote essentially limited marijuana use within city limits to smoking -- or consuming edibles made outside the city -- on private property. Even smoking at home is illegal -- if it bothers the neighbors.

The new regulations include a ban on making edibles, concentrates or extracts at home. And at least within Wasilla city limits, it's now illegal to transport more than 2 ounces of marijuana inside one vehicle. State law allows up to 1 ounce per adult but doesn't limit totals. The regulations prohibit marijuana clubs and require that the use of marijuana "cease immediately" if other residents or neighbors are disturbed.

Several council members called the new regulations simply a placeholder until state regulations are adopted later this year.

"This is a first step. This is a building block," said Stu Graham, the newest council member and the one proposing most of the regulations. "Trouble is, we don't have any idea what the final product is going to look like."

The two council members who voted against the marijuana laws called them premature.


"A lot more work needs to go into it," said Colleen Sullivan-Leonard, who questioned how police will enforce the laws.

Council member Brandon Wall proposed seven amendments, including a Nov. 24 sunset date to allow for state regulations to go into effect. The council voted the sunset date down. Wall said he couldn't support the legislation.

A small crowd at the meeting showed disapproval with frequent head shakes and grumbles.

"The ignorance displayed by the council is amazing," Keenan Williams said during a break. Some members displayed confusion about "wet" marijuana compared to cured product, and at least initially seemed to conflate edible products with riskier methods needed to extract marijuana oils.

Williams and his wife, Sara, hope to set up the Midnight Greenery marijuana dispensary in Wasilla next year after the state clarifies regulations for retail operations.

"It just seems unnecessary to do things twice," Sara Williams said of the city adopting regulations that will need to be changed when the state's laws come into play.

The two joined about 20 people at a public hearing before the vote, with many urging the council to reconsider the restrictions. Several praised the medicinal value of marijuana: One mother in the crowd told the council that marijuana is the only drug that eases her 12-year-old son's otherwise uncontrollable seizures.

It's unclear whether, as Graham assured her, Wasilla's new laws will have no effect on medicinal users. The state initiative doesn't differentiate between recreational, medicinal or industrial uses of cannabis products.

Concerns about enforcing the new regulations arose before they even passed.

Sullivan-Leonard expressed concern about police "knocking on the door and walking into somebody's house to see what kind of brownies they're making, or Jell-O."

The city's attorney, Richard Payne, acknowledged the manufacturing section of the law "will be a difficult provision to enforce."

Proving extraction or concentration will be easier than catching someone in the act of making brownies, Payne said. If a citation is issued for edibles, it's likely they'll need to get tested at the state crime lab at the city's expense.

A proposal to remove edibles from the banned list was also rejected.

Graham said his concerns included products like brownies in a situation where "you leave them out and your little brother gets into them and your neighbor gets into them. Or you're making brownies and people don't know there's marijuana in there or they don't know the concentration."

Council member Clark "Buzz" Buswell added that the brownies could look so tempting "a kid could take them to school and share them."

That line of reasoning prompted Wall, participating by phone, to ask, "Does Mr. Buswell's wife label the bread that she makes with the calorie content or the fat content before she gives it to Mr. Buswell to eat?"

"We're not talking about stuff that's sold in stores," Wall continued. "We're talking about something that somebody makes in the privacy of their own home."


The state's voters in November passed the initiative that legalizes limited personal possession and transport of recreational marijuana as of this week. The state law bans consuming marijuana in public but doesn't define what constitutes a public place.

The state has nine months to set guidelines for marijuana growers, retail outlets and testing companies.

Wasilla residents within city limits voted against Ballot Measure 2 -- the marijuana initiative -- by a roughly 4 percent margin, according to Mayor Bert Cottle. As a whole, voters in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough also narrowly voted against legalization, but those in Palmer and Houston supported it.

The borough and other cities have taken no official stance on regulating pot locally.

Wasilla's council did vote Monday to remove a proposed prohibition on possessing more than 2 ounces of marijuana inside a domicile.

The ordinance classifies any offenses as criminal violations. It calls for a $100 fine for violations of possession, transport or use offenses and a $300 fine for a manufacturing offense. Each full ounce would constitute a separate violation.

The council approved higher fines for marijuana clubs.

Zaz Hollander

Zaz Hollander is a veteran journalist based in the Mat-Su and is currently an ADN local news editor and reporter. She covers breaking news, the Mat-Su region, aviation and general assignments. Contact her at