The Haines Chamber of Commerce wants the business community to weigh in about marijuana legalization.
The chamber is asking for feedback from its members through an online survey. It asks how the organization should be involved in developing local regulations for retail marijuana businesses.
The new law went into effect Feb. 24, making it legal for adults to possess up to an ounce of pot and grow up to six plants. It’s still illegal to smoke in public and buy or sell the drug. Retail sales of marijuana won’t be legal until next year.
But communities across the state are tackling the issues that go along with legalization. Some towns are further in that process than others.
In Haines, the borough assembly has said it will eventually form a task force to look at how to regulate retail sales. After attending the Alaska Municipal League conference, Mayor Jan Hill last week told the assembly there isn’t any rush.
“The state expects this to be a two year process,” Hill said. “They don’t expect to have all their ducks in a row at the end of this legislative session…It’s legal today. But as far as communities coming up with ordinances, resolutions and regulations — it’s a little premature.”
The Chamber of Commerce has been more proactive. The topic is on the agenda for this week’s chamber board meeting. Board president Kyle Gray says the four-question survey is a way to open up that discussion with members. The chamber represents about 140 businesses and organizations.
“We are this week going to sit down and have our formal discussion,” Gray said. “So because of that I wanted to sit down and poll the membership to make sure, to better understand where their viewpoint is on it because we do represent the membership.”
The online survey was emailed to chamber members late last week. It asks, among other things, if the chamber should research the economic potential of regulated marijuana and if the chamber should it host a public forum about marijuana activity in the community.
Gray says the chamber board doesn’t have a political position on the issue.
“We haven’t really agreed to take a position on it, and at this point the chamber is interested in being part of the conversation,” he said. “We want to make sure that since it is a business issue that the community is being heard.”
The survey is available to chamber members. The board will meet this at Friday at 9 a.m. at its offices on Main Street.