Marijuana tax to go before Anchorage voters

Anchorage voters will get the chance to decide whether or not to tax cannabis in the months ahead. Both law-makers and industry advocates support the proposed tax, but disagreements over regulation continue to grow.

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Discussion of a proposed plan to tax retail sales of cannabis products started with an frank disclosure by downtown Assembly Member Patrick Flynn.

“In the last month I’ve been approached by a former colleague interested in starting a cannabis related interest,” Flynn told the chamber during its regular Tuesday meeting. “My investment to date has been solely of my time. Given the talent and drive of my former colleague I expect–presuming I can convince my wife–to be a minor equity investor and put some more time into this venture.”

Flynn’s fellow Assembly members decided that possibility did not amount to a significant conflict of interest that would bar him from voting on subsequent marijuana matters.

The Assembly took public testimony that was generally supportive of the proposed five percent tax. Cannabis industry groups feel the amount is reasonable, though concerns were raised about the Assembly’s ability to increase the rate over a number of years to as high as 12 percent.

In a statement sent out ahead of the meeting, Bruce Schulte of the Alaska Marijuana Industry Association and chair of the state’s Marijuana Control Board, wrote that while the tax itself was reasonable, “I am concerned at how this measure was portrayed to the finance committee.”

“We keep coming back, and coming back,” said Kim Kole with the Coalition for Responsible Cannabis Legislation after the measure passed 9 to 2. “It’s one fight after another.”

Kole said she personally will vote for proposed tax on the April ballot, but CRCL’s board hasn’t yet decided to endorse it.

According to Kole, the bigger problem is the mounting body of requirements and regulations that amounts to a death by a thousand paper-cuts for potential new businesses.

“The cannabis community is very frustrated,” Kole said, explaining that some current members of the Assembly had been involved in the campaign against legalization of a commercial cannabis industry in Alaska. “It would be nice if those were not the people trying to regulate our industry.”

A separate ordinance introduced to the Assembly lays out the revised zoning code for commercial cannabis businesses around the municipality. That measure will be open for public comment in the weeks ahead.