The Haines Chamber of Commerce Marijuana Regulation Committee had its second meeting Thursday to discuss what the future might hold for local pot-inclined entrepreneurs. Committee members came up with several potential recommendations that they will present to the assembly sometime in the New Year. One of them could include a temporary moratorium on business licenses in the borough.
As the state moves closer to fleshing out the rules around marijuana businesses, Haines is slowly catching up. The chamber group didn’t decide on any recommendations this week, but they’re getting closer. They’ve narrowed discussion points to four ideas.
The first is to put together a pros and cons list about whether the borough should have local smoking-in-public ordinance. The second is whether the municipal government should establish a regulatory authority for taxation and other local regulation. The third is about zoning and whether restrictions should exist for pot businesses. And the final point up for discussion is whether the Haines borough should simply put a temporary freeze on pot business licenses until they figure out the details. Several cities and towns in Alaska have already put the kibosh on pot enterprises.
“There’s Wasilla, and there’s Juneau, that set a moratorium. They’re not dealing with this for another year. They just refuse,” said committee member Stephanie Scott.
“So they won’t issue any licenses?” asked committee chair Thom Ely.
“Right. They’re just not doing anything for a year,” said Scott.
Ely said the number of regulatory hoops, coupled with the cost – between $1,000 and $5,000 depending on the size of the operation – is prohibitive for many.
“I mean it’s going to be questionable whether it’s worthwhile in our small community for anybody to do that,” Ely said. “Nobody I’ve talked to is seriously looking into it, people have talked about it, but…”
The group also discussed local taxation. Scott raised the question as to whether it would even be worth it financially for the borough to come with its own regulations, which include tax. Sure, there’s a little money to be had in business licenses and a local pot tax, if the borough chooses to implement one. But is it worth it?
“How much revenue do we really think we’re going to recoup?” Ely asked. “I really think that the finance department has to weigh in on whether or not we even want to get involved as a local government. We don’t have to.”
Assembly liaison Diana Lapham said that while she and the mayor are in support of this potential new business opportunity in Haines, there are many factors at stake.
“It was a 63, 64 percent vote and whether I agree with it or disagree with it, that is the direction I’m getting from the community,” Lapham said. “So we want to do it right, we want to set it up right. There are a lot of things to consider.”
Things like zoning, she said. Should a pot dispensary or edibles store be allowed in one place, but not another? The answer is ultimately in the hands of the assembly.
Lapham added that while the proposition did pass handily, it’s important to consider those who are against the legalization because the live here, too.
“You also have to take into account that 64 percent of the voting public here voted it in,” she said. “Now there’s another faction that does not want any part of that and by disallowing them any kind of public input, you’re doing a disserve for them and for us because we’re not getting the whole spectrum from the community.”
Ely said at the next meeting, on Jan. 14, the committee will elaborate on these ideas and present final recommendations to the assembly shortly thereafter. The state will start accepting business license applications in February with the first ones slated to go into effect in May.
If Haines isn’t ready or hasn’t decided what it’s going to do, state rules are the default.
Ely said he recommends potential business owners get as much information as possible in the meantime, and work with the community to “hash this all out.”