Hefty tax on marijuana sales urged by Valdez man
City council hears opinion before vote on local control board ordinance
Valdez man Doug Davies urged the Valdez City Council to levy a hefty tax on marijuana sales Monday night.
The move came as the council was preparing to vote on an ordinance that – after it unanimously passed – created a local marijuana regulatory body that will initially be made up of council members.
“All this is doing is establishing a regulation board,” Mayor pro tempore Chris Moulton said after Davies made his plea before the vote.
Mayor Larry Weaver was absent and excused from Monday night’s meeting.
Valdez was required to have a regulatory body in place before next month or it would lose its ability to have local control over legal marijuana sales within the city limits.
“This gets the framework started,” council member Nate Smith said before the public was invited to voice an opinion on the new ordinance. “This is it.”
Monday night’s vote did just that, established a regulatory body for local control of marijuana, which will not be allowed under Alaska law until after February, 2016.
Under the provisions of Ballot Measure 2, which was passed by Alaska voters last fall, municipalities can prohibit or regulate the “number, time, place, and manner of marijuana cultivation and manufacturing facilities, retail stores and testing facilities within their borders.
The measure also allows local taxation.
Council members say Robert Jean, the city’s interim city manager, is implementing a timeline for the crafting of local regulation.
“Has he set out some timelines for us,” Smith said Monday night.
The state’s marijuana board, which is operating under the infrustruction of the Alaska Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, released its third draft of regulations last week.
“The public comment period for this set of draft regulations opened August 11 and closes September 10, 2015,” the board’s website said.
The council has said in previous meetings it did not wish to act on local regulation until the state’s rules are firmly in place. However, it is expected the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission, as well as other local regulatory bodies, will need begin looking at local regulation in the coming weeks.
This will include public input on local regulation.
Under current law, adults 21 years of age and older can possess up to one ounce of marijuana and grow up to six plants - three mature plants in bud - in a private, secure location, but private and commercial sales are still prohibited.
Davies made his wishes known early.
“People who know me know I was very opposed to legalization,” Davies told the council before its vote.
Davies said legalized sales will lead to increased costs to local law enforcement and medical costs and he hopes to see these costs offset by a “stiff tax.”
“Then set that money aside for law enforcement costs, medical costs,” he told council.
Jean said Todd Wegner, assistant city manager, has been working on the issue behind the scenes.
“Once we sort some things out there,” Jean said, “It’s clearly our intent to have a round table with the public.”
He also mentioned a third use for a local tax: education.
A clear timeline was not available Monday night.
Jean said city administration and P&Z will have guidelines to work with that are first approved by council – after the existing and yet-to-be-approved state laws are set.
“Before we bring something to council, we need to know what something is,” he said.
The issue is not likely to be quick – or easy. Ballot Measure 2, which legalized marijuana sales and consumption which are to be regulated in the same manner as alcohol, was was passed by 53.23 percent popular vote.
However, much of the regulation was not spelled out in the ballot measure; instead, regulations are to be set by the state board. License applications to legally sell marijuana will not be available until February, 2016.
“We got some time to play this out,” Jean said. “This is the first of what will be many steps.”