Assembly to Legislature: Take Cannabis off Schedule of Controlled Substances

Jan 28, 2019

Presiding officer, Matt Cooper, left, talks with Assembly members Christopher Quist, center and Aaron Lojewski, right. Assembly member Leah Berman-Williams prepares an amendment, far right.

  

 

Asking the state legislature for actions and local money is an annual duty of the Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly. An Assembly committee has been refining its Legislative Priorities for a few months. As KUAC’s Robyne reports, the Assembly voted on it last Thursday and is ready to send the “wish list” to Juneau.

On the list is money for a woodstove change-out program to help subsidize homeowners who want to buy cleaner-burning wood or pellet stoves. Since last October’s municipal election, the borough has no power to regulate solid-fuel burning devices. But the Assembly wants to continue the popular woodstove change-out program. Part of the request to the legislature would include money for retrofit devices such as electrostatic precipitators, commonly called ESPs.

The committee submitted a bulleted two-page list in the hopes it would be a quick read for a state legislator to understand what people in the borough need from the state. But after discussions with the borough’s lobbyist about what might actually be funded, Borough Mayor Bryce Ward submitted a much shorter substitute resolution to be voted on at last week’s Assembly meeting.

“We are in a different climate at the statewide level, for consideration of capital projects, as well as for just general legislation. If we are to be successful in advocating for different things, maybe we take a different strategy.”

The substitute resolution targeted fewer maintenance items. Gone were major capital improvements like a new animal shelter and aquatics center. Assembly member Christopher Quist thought those items, among others, should be put back.

“The animal shelter; I think it is a need and a priority for this community, and it’s core to what we do.”

On actions asked of the legislature, were consideration of a State Health Care Authority, and removing Cannabis from the Schedule of Controlled Substances. But that last one was not on the substitute resolution, and that caught the attention of some citizens, like Kris Thompson, who told the Assembly to include it.

“If feel like marijuana should be removed from the Schedule of Controlled Substances. It is far less damaging than alcohol. Alcohol causes 88,000 deaths annually; that’s what you should be putting on as a Controlled Substance, not Cannabis.”

The Assembly amended the substitute to put the request about Cannabis back in. But then after discussion that took the Assembly to midnight, they voted down the substitute.

Before passing the original resolution, the Assembly borrowed back some of the ideas from the mayor’s document, including a Pioneer Park Master Plan and expanding state law to help homeowners get grants and loans to convert their homes to natural gas.

Just before midnight, the Assembly passed the resolution.