Assembly won't send commercial marijuana cultivation measure to voters

Photo by Kelly Sullivan/ Peninsula Clarion Eric Durleth was the first to speak at the Kenai Peninsula Borough Building location during public comment at the Borough Assembly meeting Tuesday. Durleth spoke in against the ordinance, introduced by assembly member Kelly Wolf, that would put a proposition on the Oct. 6, 2015 regular election ballot asking voters whether or not commercial marijuana cultivation facilities should be banned in the borough's unincorporated areas.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly voted down a proposition that would have asked eligible voters outside of incorporated cities if the commercial cultivation of marijuana should be illegal in the borough’s unincorporated areas.

 

More than 90 people testified on the measure. Attendees were spilling out of the assembly chamber exits, waiting for their three minutes to speak in support of or opposition to what Assembly President Dale Bagley termed the “main event” at Tuesday’s meeting.

Regulations for commercial marijuana cultivation facilities are currently being developed by state officials. Language in the ballot initiative that legalized marijuana for recreational use allows for municipalities to regulate aspects of manufacturing, testing and sales of the product.

Assembly members Kelly Wolf, Blaine Gilman and Stan Welles voted in favor of the measure.

A site in Homer was established in assembly member Kelly Cooper’s office so residents could comment on the measure telephonically. Sue McClure said the same courtesy was extended in Seward, but she did not receive enough interest.

Cameron Baxter, a Homer resident, was the first to speak. He said he uses a specific strain of medical marijuana to treat painful spasms. The drug is fast acting, calming the convulsions within 15 minutes, whereas untreated it takes up to two hours, for which he may be bedridden. A commercial facility would make access to the strain called “Superior Skunk,” much easier.

Beth Carol of Fritz Creek said, as an aspiring business owner, if cultivation were banned, would put her at a severe disadvantage.

“The Kenai Peninsula should be a part of this burgeoning industry in Alaska,” she said.

Eric Derleth, the first to speak at the Soldotna location, said the real problem in the community is drugs an alcohol. Wolf interrupted Derleth part way through his testimony and Bagley reminded the room to be courteous and respectful of each other’s opinions.

Jim Nelson of Anchor Point said the ordinance would be “putting the cart before horse,” and said to the assembly, “If you have a better idea for revenue generation, I’d like to hear it now.”

Following commentary by George Pierce, Wolf asked if the Kasilof resident understood the ordinance would only be putting the ban to a vote.

“I understood that 100 percent Kelly, but we just voted on this,” Pierce said.

Assembly member Brent Johnson said he had a hard time “telling people they can’t vote on it (the proposition).”

Gilman said he was going to vote in favor of the ordinance because the Kenai Peninsula needs less drugs and alcohol altogether. He said if the voters defeat the ban, he would help properly regulate the facilities.

Welles said one of his concerns about the facilities was their potential impact on youth in the community. He said he has spoken with a woman whose daughter suffered from “marijuana poisoning,” and didn’t want others to experience the same effects.

Mako Haggerty said he had a traumatic experience during his childhood when his father received a overly harsh punishment for possession.

“To be honest, when I walked in the room tonight I knew I would be voting against the ordinance,” Haggerty said.

Haggerty said he had been waiting for legalization for nearly five decades.

 

Reach Kelly Sullivan at kelly.sullivan@peninsulaclarion.com.

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