Anchorage Forms New Committee To Navigate Pot Legalization

Just a week after a vote shooting down a controversial proposal to ban commercialization of marijuana within Anchorage, the city Assembly is forming a new committee to handle local implementation in the months ahead.

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The committee, named the “Regulation and Taxing the Cultivation, Manufacture, and Commercial Sale of Marijuana,” will be headed by District Three assembly member Ernie Hall of West Anchorage.

“We’ll be making direct inquiry of all the community councils for their feedback to us, but I intend to hold a number of meetings where we will be taking public testimony,” Hall said.

The idea is to collect input from local stakeholders, advocates, and members of the public, and bring those perspectives to negotiations in Juneau as the state develops its own policies and procedures. The committee will let the municipality decide how to regulate marijuana just as the state is starting to issue commercial licenses a year-and-a-half from now.

“What I would like to see done is that we take all the input we’ve gotten with regard to conditional use,” Hall explained, “so that we end up with what would be a standard conditional use permit.”

Those permits are one example of where the Assembly can adapt state laws to meet local needs. Another instance likely to take some serious negotiating is who keeps what share of revenues collected from new taxes. Hall says it is much too early in the process to have the economics ironed out, but expects that much like alcohol and tobacco, marijuana sales will be taxed at both the state and municipal levels.

Bruce Schulte with the Coalition for Responsible Cannabis Legislation, an organization that has supported commercialization efforts, said the group looks forward to working with the city as new policies are drafted. The challenge, Schulte believes, will be finding the right level of taxation, one that covers administrative costs but is not so expensive that customers are driven away from the legal market.

The committee meets Tuesday, Dec. 23, at noon in Anchorage City Hall.