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

Editor, Valdez Star 

Anti-commercial marijuana petition backers are seeking signatures

Citizen initiative cannot prohibit personal use or consumption by law


Valdez Star photo

Pastor Carl Hedman looks on as Dorothy Wamsley signs the petition that his group is circulating that - if certified - will ask voters to outlaw commercial marijuana in Valdez.

Foes of legalized commercial marijuana have been gathering signatures for the group's citizen's initiative that could put a proposition on the ballot in the next municipal elections to ask Valdez voters if all commercial marijuana should be banned within the city limits - and ten miles beyond that.

What the proposed ordinance cannot do is ban the individuals right to possess, grow and use marijuana products, within the confines of the law.

To legally consume and possess marijuana in Alaska, a person needs to be 21-years of age - that is it.

Anti-marijuana ordinances that are in effect in organized municipal boundaries cannot prohibit individuals from using, possessing or growing marijuana or other processes products such as marijuana-infused candies or beverages.

This means that people who live in areas where commercial marijuana is banned can still buy products in areas where it is legal and bring them home for personal consumption.

Private sales of marijuana between unlicensed individuals are still illegal and will remain so under current law. It is legal for one consenting adult to gift another person over the age of 21 up to one ounce of marijuana.

While private use and growing of marijuana is allowed, no state-sanctioned licenses have been granted for commercial marijuana operations so buying, selling and cultivating marijuana for commercial purposes remains illegal until these licenses are granted.

It is unclear when the state licenses will be issued. Marijuana licenses were expected to be issued within 90 days application for a license, which began Feb. 21. However, changes enacted or pending before the Legislature has delayed licensing across the state.

Alaska law does allow municipalities and boroughs to ban commercial manufacture, testing, growing and selling of marijuana, and that is what the citizen's initiative petition circulating in Valdez will do if it is certified by the city clerk to appear in next May's municipal elections and is passed by a majority of Valdez voters.

The actual language on the petition is two pages long, but excerpts from the petition spell out how it would be put into effect.


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.

Last week, the Valdez City Council opted to pass ordinances that change the city's zoning regulations to allow for all types of legal commercial marijuana facilities.

The ordinance passed 5-2. The newly sworn-in mayor, Ruth Knight, and council member Lea Cockerham were the two votes against the ordinance, that controls where and what commercial marijuana activities will be allowed in which zones of the city.

So what happens to commercial marijuana businesses that may be operating in Valdez if the citizen's initiative to ban commercial marijuana is passed by voters?

There is no "grandfather clause" for pre-existing businesses under the proposed initiative.

Any existing marijuana businesses will be shuttered within 90 days of the passage of anti-marijuana ordinances under state law, which also includes licenses businesses in operation within 10 miles outside the city limits.

This is spelled out in Section 2 of the petition.

Source: PSA published by Gov. Bill Walker

An excerpt from Gov. Bill Walker' public service announcement that was published shortly after voters approved legalizing marijuana in Alaska.

"If a majority of voter vote under 3 AAC 306.200(a) to prohibit the sale of marijuana and marijuana products or the operation of marijuana establishments, the State will not issue, renew, or transferred to another person a license for a marijuana establishment with premises located within the boundary of the City of Valdez or in the unincorporated area within 10 miles of the boundaries of the city. An existing license for a marijuana establishment within the boundary of the City or in the unincorporated area within 10 miles of the boundaries of the City is void 90 days after the results of the election are certified. A license that expires during the 90 days after the certification of the election may be extended by the State until it is buoyed by payment of a prorated portion of the annual license fee," it says.

The state's Marijuana Control Board has not yet issued licenses to any marijuana-related businesses in the state, but has a number of applications, including two in Valdez. One for retail sales, one for cultivation.


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