First marijuana cultivation license approved by city council
Important hurdle jumped in quest to begin legal pot growing in Valdez
Photo source: Wikimedia Commons
The Valdez City Council approved the town's first marijuana cultivation license.
The city's first marijuana cultivation license application was approved by the Valdez City Council - clearing the way for Alaskan Greenery to receive a state license to legally grow pot.
Last March, Valdez man Michael R Liljedahl began running legal notices that he was applying for a standard marijuana cultivation license under the business name Alaskan Greenery.
Under the state's marijuana laws, local municipalities can have a direct say in how - and if - marijuana businesses operate within municipal boundaries.
In Valdez, the city council acts as the local regulation board.
Council approved the state's request to give backing to the license by a vote of 5-1. Council member Lea Cockerham was the lone vote against approving the license. Mayor Ruth Knight was absent for the vote, but had previously voted against pro-marijuana matters that have been presented to council for consideration.
Police Chief Bart Hinkle told council that he had met with Liljedahl and inspected the property he intends to use for the legal grow operation.
Hinkle said he was satisfied with Liljedahl's preparations and he could see no reason to protest granting the license.
"I had a walkthrough at the proposed business site," Hinkle said. He noted that the proposed grow area was not yet in operation but that preliminary requirements have been met and that he saw no reason to withhold approval. "It had the necessary security in place."
Mayor pro tempore Nate Smith asked Hinkle to address the changing regulations on the state level.
Hinkle noted that Liljedahl brought up the fact that state requirements for disposal of waste and other regulations have changed since the license application was submitted and that he had made adjustments to his plans to be able to comply with the new or changed rules.
"Undoubtedly there's going to be some growing pains with this," Hinkle said.
City Clerk Sheri Pierce said the city's law firm is monitoring the state's marijuana regulations daily and that anytime there is a change in state regulations the city is notified.
Council member Chris Moulton asked about protests or complaints from nearby neighbors regarding the license application.
Lisa Von Bargen, director of the city's department of economic development, said that no formal citizen protests had been received by the city regarding this particular license application.
A retail marijuana license application is by Herbal Outfitters is also pending with the Marijuana Control Board.
The state's marijuana control board is not expected to begin issuing retail licenses until its September meeting due to continuous revisions to state regulations.
It is still illegal to sell marijuana to private individuals in Alaska because no licenses have yet been granted for retail sales.
It is legal for private citizens over the age of 21 to possess marijuana for private consumption and to also grow it.
"... it is lawful to possess marijuana harvested from up to six plants (three or fewer being mature, flowering plants) on the private premises where the plants were grown," according to the city's website.
Private sales of marijuana between individuals is - and will remain - illegal.
Last May, a group of concerned citizens began circulating a petition that would create a proposition in the city's next election cycle that - if passed - would ban all commercial marijuana in Valdez.
The proposition says: SHALL THE CITY OF VALDEZ ADOPT A LOCAL OPTION TO PROHIBIT THE OPERATION OF COMMERCIAL MARIJUANA ESTABLISHMENTS, INCLUDING THE FOLLOWING LICENCE TYPES
The list includes: retail marijuana store, marijuana cultivation facilities, marijuana product manufacturing facilities, and marijuana testing facilities. Each section of proposed banned activity comes with a description.
Under state law, municipalities cannot outlaw legal possession or growing of marijuana by private citizens, only commercial marijuana.