JUNEAU — Anchorage lawmakers next month will consider banning the commercial sale of marijuana in Alaska’s largest city, which if passed would deal an early blow to a voter-approved law that would establish a statewide seed-to-sale cannabis industry.
Anchorage Assemblywoman Amy Demboski, with support from two colleagues, introduced the ordinance on Tuesday before the state even had the chance to certify the results of the Nov. 4 vote. The Assembly will take public comment on Dec. 18 when it can vote or delay action for later.
Voters in Alaska and Oregon approved the use of marijuana by adults for recreational purposes in systems that would eventually usher in retail stores similar to the ones already operating in Washington state and Colorado.
Alaska’s law takes effect 90 days after results are certified and the state has nine months to draft conforming regulations, elections officials said. Under Alaska’s new law, municipalities can choose not to participate and still ban commercial marijuana businesses.
Anchorage Assembly member Paul Honeman, a former Anchorage police lieutenant, said he worries that the state could strip local communities of the power to set their local rules, including opting out of the nascent industry.
“We want to be in the driver’s seat of how the community responds to the statute,” Honeman said.
The Alaska Dispatch News said five members of the 11-person Assembly thought the proposal came too soon. Opponents say they would prefer to wait for the regulations to be drafted before deciding whether the city should participate in the marijuana industry.
Bruce Schulte, an Anchorage resident and spokesman for the Coalition for Responsible Cannabis Legislation, said the Assembly should let voters’ will prevail.
“They told 51 percent of the Anchorage voters who passed this that their time and energy has been wasted because 11 members of the Assembly know better,” Schulte said. “That’s not good governance.”
The state Legislature can modify the law, but it cannot repeal it for at least two years, according to the state constitution.
One state lawmaker, House Representative Bob Lynn, an Anchorage Republican, said last week he will introduce a bill that would keep marijuana establishments from within 500 feet of schools, recreation and youth centers, churches or public parks.
He also seeks to limit certain marijuana advertising and, bar convicted felons from owning or working at a marijuana establishment, he said.