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Council Postpones Marijuana Business Ordinance, OKs Group to Review Measure

A proposed ordinance that would that would place limits on the local marijuana industry drew a capacity crowd to Fairbanks City Council chambers Monday night. About 20 of those at the meeting gave council members an earful about the ordinance, which would limit the number of marijuana retail shops in the city, prohibit on-site consumption and increase buffer-zone distances between the shops and residential areas, schools and drug and alcohol rehab facilities. In the end, council members decided to postpone voting on the ordinance until May – and in the meanwhile they plan to form a working group to include representatives of the local cannabis industry and others.

Several local marijuana businesspersons expressed support during a public hearing on the ordinance for the city forming a consultative committee, including Greg Allison.

“A potential work group, or some kind of task force that can address these concerns, try to understand the ordinance a little bit better,” Allison said.

Allison and others say they oppose the ordinance because they believe the council arbitrarily chose to limit the number of marijuana retail shops to 12, which they also say it too low. The marijuana advocates also disagree with the ordinance’s on-site pot consumption ban and the longer, 750-foot buffer distances.

But Businesswoman Vivian Stiver says those are reasonable changes that she and other marijuana opponents support.

“I think you’re well within your bounds,” said Stiver, a former City Council member. “And I applaud you for taking this on.”

Marijuana businessman Mason Evans says many in the industry were caught off-guard by the ordinance. He urged the council to delay voting on the ordinance or a less-stringent substitute version and to form an advisory group to help rework the ordinance.

'I think we need to work together.'
-- Mason Evans

“I think we need to work together,” Evans said. “I do not think the ordinances needs to happens immediately. I think they need to be tabled.”

Evans said the restrictions in the ordinance would keep the industry from expanding locally, and cause financial ruin for many who, like him, have invested their life savings to get into the business.

But Greg Batz, a military servicemember who says he’s “very conservative,” believes the council should regulate the industry much more heavily.

“I am for this ordinance,” he said, “and in some ways, as I say again, I wish it were stronger. I have nothing against these small businesses. But we cannot be too cautious.”

'I am for this ordinance ... I wish it were stronger.'
-- Greg Batz

But landlord and realtor Ray Brasier, who’s sold properties to marijuana businesses, says the ordinance will stifle an industry that’s injected a lot of money in the local real estate market and benefited other area businesses.

“Our city’s had declining bricks and mortar business, as across the nation,” Brasier said, referring to commercial real estate. “And these retail shops are increasing foot traffic for other business. I just see that that as positive.”

Brandon Emmett, another marijuana businessman and member of the state Marijuana Control Board urged council members to hold off until after the board considers the issue in April.

After public testimony ended at 10 p.m., council members agreed to wait until after the control board reviews the issue and to form a working group to review the ordinance. The council voted 6-to-1 to postpone final consideration of the ordinance until its May 7th meeting, with Councilman Jerry Cleworth voting against.

Editor's note: The city has posted a noticethat summarizes the council's actions during Monday's meeting.

Tim has worked in the news business for over three decades, mainly as a newspaper reporter and editor in southern Arizona. Tim first came to Alaska with his family in 1967, and grew up in Delta Junction before emigrating to the Lower 48 in 1977 to get a college education and see the world.