The Valdez Star - Serving Prince William Sound and Copper River Basin

By Lee Revis
Editor, Valdez Star 

Marijuana in Valdez: council looks at local laws

More questions than answers as fledgling industry takes wing


A special work session held to discuss local marijuana regulation was held in Valdez Monday night.

By consensus, council decided to make the council itself the local regulatory body and it is expected that an ordinance will be brought up for a vote during its first meeting in August.

"We can do that by ordinance," City attorney Jake Staser said.

Current state regulations say a local governing body must be in place by the November deadline if municipalities wish to have local control of state licenses, associated revenues and other issues.

"We want to go ahead and designate council as the local regulatory authority for now," Mayor Larry Weaver said.

By making itself the local governing body of marijuana, the council will later have the option of creating a separate governing board or commission if it is deemed necessary.

"Eventually, you might find it quite a regulatory burden," Staser said.

Guided by Staser, council members discussed other local regulation possibilities and issues that could arise in the future. However, there were more questions than answers available as the state's marijuana board grapples with regulating what the federal government still considers an illegal controlled substance.

"It's still a fluid situation," Staser said. "We still don't know what the state regs will look like."

Staser also advised council that its personnel regulations regarding marijuana use must be updated.

After a statewide vote legalized the use and eventual sales of marijuana last year, city employees in Valdez were advised that marijuana use by city employees was still prohibited.

Stacer noted the city personnel regulations were not always in line and that verbiage in the regulations might need to be changed from "illegal substances" to "controlled substances."

There was discussion – but no firm timeline – on gathering public input for city-based marijuana regulation.

Source: Google images

Opinions on marijuana are as varied as the images one sees on a Google image search.

State regulations must be completed by Nov 24. On Feb 24, 2016, Alaska will begin taking applications for marijuana-based business, and then the state will have 90 days to issue licenses.

Staser advised council to have its policies and ordinances in place. He also said that municipalities may pass tighter controls on marijuana than eventual state regulations, but that local rules cannot be more lax than the state allows.

Where will marijuana be allowed to be sold in Valdez? How many licenses will be granted? Will commercial grow facilities be allowed?

These and numerous other questions remained unanswered.

"Right now we're kind of spinning and that's okay for awhile," Council member Jim Shirrell said. "But clock is ticking."


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