Petersburg Pilot -

Assembly unanimous on October marijuana vote

 


The Petersburg Borough Assembly unanimously passed three ordinances in their final reading dealing with marijuana at its meeting Monday.

One prohibited the smoking of marijuana at a properly licensed marijuana retail establishment and one added fines for violating marijuana regulations. The other ordinance added marijuana regulations to the Municipal Code, now that marijuana is legal in Alaska and the borough, even though an opt-out vote will take place this fall.

“This ordinance, and I think it is a very carefully crafted and thoughtful ordinance, makes it a point to regulate very strictly commercial sales of marijuana in Petersburg,” assembly member Jeigh Stanton Gregor said. “By choosing to opt out—if that’s what we so choose to do, we will by default if we choose to opt out by saying we don’t want to regulate this—we are supporting the financial interests of illegal drug dealers.”

The assembly also held its first reading of an ordinance brought forth by a citizen’s initiative petition that recently gathered 434 signatures. The ordinance will decide when an opt-out vote will be held in Petersburg. The vote will ask whether or not marijuana retail establishments, cultivation, product manufacturing and testing, should be allowed in the borough.

The matter will go on a ballot if the ordinance passes or not. However, if adopted the question would be placed on the municipal election ballot on Oct. 4, and there would be no need for a special election. Assembly members overwhelmingly stated they were in favor of making sure the vote happened during the regular election to save the borough and its residents the cost of a special election, which could cost as much as $10,000.

Assembly member Bob Lynn said he favored proposing the question on the regular election ballot, but his opinion on the matter of regulating marijuana, rather than opting out, has not changed. Lynn mentioned being of the same opinion as assembly member Stanton Gregor.

“Marijuana is quite available in Petersburg, it always has been, when my kids went to school in the 80s, it hasn’t changed,” Lynn said. “All we’re doing now is bringing it above board.”

Nancy Strand was also in agreement with Stanton Gregor, who earlier in the meeting took the opportunity to clarify the fact that marijuana is legal in Alaska, therefore will still be legal locally even if Petersburg opts out. Strand said she would be voting to avoid a special election, and she’s still in favor of regulating marijuana opposed to opting out.

Stanton Gregor said it wouldn’t be fair to make the people of Petersburg pay for a special election. He commended borough clerks Debra Thompson and Mindy Swihart for working so hard to make it possible for the citizen’s initiative to be placed on the Oct. 4 ballot. Assembly member Eric Castro said it would be “grossly fiscally irresponsible” to have a special election, and he stated his feelings on the issue of regulating marijuana opposed to allowing a “black market” for marijuana.

“Commercial sale of marijuana in town has a great opportunity to increase revenue to our community,” he said. “With potential revenues initially beginning anywhere between $40,000 and $80,000 a year, and it could potentially be higher than that.”

Cindi Lagoudakis, attending the meeting telephonically, echoed the sentiments of her fellow assembly members in regards to marijuana regulation and taxation. She also desired to save the borough money by avoiding a special election.

Kurt Wohlhueter, also attended the meeting by phone, and said he too would be voting to pass the ordinance and place the question on the municipal election ballot. However, he was the only member of the assembly that did not say his reasoning was saving the borough money.

There was no public comment concerning the

citizen’s initiative or marijuana at the meeting. The second and third readings of the ordinance for placing the opt-out option on a ballot will take place Aug. 1 and Aug. 15.

 

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