AK: City Revisiting Pot Regulations In Public Work Session

Photo Credit: Jeff Chiu

A work session discussing proposed marijuana regulations in the city of Fairbanks will be held from 5-7 p.m. Monday at Fairbanks City Hall, 800 Cushman St.

As part of an ongoing attempt to draft local pot regulations, Monday’s work session will follow a slightly different format than previous ones.

The public hearing will be split into three main topics: the number of retail stores, cultivation facility buffers and onsite consumption.

People wishing to speak about one or more of the topics must complete a sign-up sheet no later than 5:15 p.m. Monday. A person may not sign up for another individual, and only those signed up will be allowed to speak. Additional public comment may be allowed if time permits.

An ordinance establishing marijuana regulations was first presented to the City Council on Feb. 5. But when the ordinance came up for a second reading and a vote Feb. 26, substantial industry and public opposition prompted the council to postpone the ordinance until May 7. A previous work session discussing regulations was held March 19.

Opponents of regulations were incensed that the council seemed to arbitrarily limit the number of retail shops at 12, support/pass a proposal to increase buffer zones and banning onsite consumption, regardless of state law. Many people also accused the city of not being forthcoming with its regulation plans.

The number of proposed licenses is related to the number of alcohol package stores allowed in Fairbanks — only nine are allowed, but 15 exist, thanks to grandfather rights.

One of the biggest areas of contention revolved around retail stores that have submitted applications with the state — often at significant time and cost — but have have yet to be reviewed by the city. If the limit of 12 retail stores had been approved, many of those applicants likely would have been shut out of the industry.

As a local regulatory authority, Fairbanks has been looking to draft cannabis regulations for years. However, officials decided to wait until the results from 2017’s ballot initiatives attempting to ban commercial pot in the city, and separately in the borough. When those ballot measures were roundly defeated, a renewed effort to draft regulations began.

Since the ordinance was postponed Feb. 27, Mayor Jim Matherly has held separate meetings with the pro-pot Alaska Marijuana Industry Association and Safe Neighborhood Fairbanks, which opposes the legalized marijuana industry. Relatively few opponents of commercial cannabis have given testimony at recent meetings.