Petersburg Pilot -

Assembly member to request retail marijuana opt out vote on October ballot


Petersburg Borough Assembly member Kurt Wohlhueter wants to let the people of Petersburg choose whether or not retail marijuana will be allowed in town and will propose such an idea at the May 16 Borough Assembly meeting.

Wohlhueter said the assembly has not discussed the opt out option allowed by state regulations, which some communities in Alaska have already done.

“I want to see if we can get it (opt out option) on the ballot in October and let the people of Petersburg decide whether we want it because that was always one of the things (state regulations) stated we would be able to employ and we have not talked about it,” Wohlhueter said. “We’re going ahead on this thing, giving out permits and passing out ordinances and stuff to regulate the marijuana trade here but we don’t even know if people want it yet.”

In 2014, 58 percent of Petersburg voters supported the legalization of marijuana in Alaska a margin greater than the 53 percent state average, but Wohlhueter doesn’t think that means those same voters support a retail market in town.

“You’ve got (58) percent of the people of in Petersburg who voted to legalize marijuana in the state of Alaska,” Wohlhueter said. “I’ve talked to six people who voted for it but they don’t want it in our town.”

Wohlhueter said he’s going to either propose the motion as a discussion item or ask Mayor Mark Jensen to add the item under new business at the next meeting for the assembly to vote on. The assembly would need a majority vote in favor of putting it on October’s ballot for it to pass.

The Borough Assembly at its last meeting approved a new marijuana ordinance in its first reading and a public hearing will be held on the ordinance this Monday evening at the assembly meeting.

The ordinance is largely a reflection of the borough’s alcohol ordinance. It outlines hours of sale in retail locations similar to that of bars and prohibits the sale to minors or to intoxicated persons.

Petersburg Borough Manager Steve Giesbrecht is waiting to talk to the borough’s attorney about how to go about approving such an opt out because he doesn’t want to waste money before hearing from the assembly.

“I think because the voters have already voted on this, the assembly as a body has then stated to staff ‘Go write an ordinance,’ which has passed on its first reading. For Kurt (Wohlhueter) to say ‘Let’s now send this back to the voters,’ we’ve got a lot of things going on there,” Giesbrecht said.

One Petersburg business owner has already applied for a retail marijuana permit and plans to expand her business next year. Another individual has applied for a cultivation permit.

The Borough Assembly will meet Monday evening at 6 p.m. in the Petersburg Indian Association conference room.


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