Three potential marijuana business owners are waiting on state approval to operate in Haines. Representatives from each business made their case to the borough assembly this week.
Right now, there is nothing in borough code regulating marijuana businesses in Haines. That means, unless the assembly takes action, businesses pot entrepreneurs only need to abide by state guidelines.
Local governments can choose to be more restrictive than the state, but they can’t be less restrictive. And, they could impose taxes on the product. The assembly is looking into a marijuana and tobacco excise tax.
Carol Waldo applied to operate Glacier Bay Farms. The business would include a dispensary across from the cruise ship dock at 75 Beach Road, and a cultivation facility at 17 Helms Loop Spur.
Her general manager, Jason Adams, addressed some of the concerns residents have expressed so far. Adams said they will use filters to control odor, and the buildings will have alarms and security cameras.
He said he’s heard concerns about people smoking pot in public, and that those under the age of 21 could get ahold of the product. State law prohibits anyone under 21 from possessing or consuming pot, other than medical exceptions.
“Both these matters are for law enforcement,” said Adams. “The community tells us where people can use it, or not. Right now the law says they can use it on personal property. We’re willing to back up anything you guys decide. We’re not going to sell anything to anyone under 21 ever. We’re going to check IDs.”
Adams said on-site consumption, sometimes referred to as marijuana cafes, is not part of their business plan. That’s something that’s still in limbo at the state-level.
“Marijuana has a longer lasting effect on some people, especially newer users,” said Adams. “If their tolerance is lower, and effectively more astounding or longer lasting, then you have just a lot of sedentary people at your place.”
Sean McNamara applied for a license to open Alaska Mountain Growers. Like Glacier Bay Farms, he wants to operate both a cultivation facility and dispensary.
The dispensary would be located on the Haines Highway, between the post office and the quick shop. The cultivation facility is planned for 31 Letnikof Drive, off of Mud Bay Road.
McNamara’s business partner, Frank Clark, represented Alaska Mountain Growers at the meeting.
Clark said they’re hoping to clear up concerns other residents have about the business.
“We’re going to set up some meetings with our neighbors so we can try to work through these things amicably,” said Clark. “We’re not here to kind of bully or anything like that. We’d like to work everything out amicably. And we’re not going to litigate this at the end so if we can’t honestly come to an agreement on things in good faith then we’ll probably do it elsewhere.”
Like Adams, Clark said they plan to meet state standards for security, and will implement measures to minimize odor.
Erika Merklin applied to operate Resurrected Dreams, a limited cultivation facility at her property on Chilkat Lake Road, about 26 miles out of town. It would be 500 square feet or less. She said if she’s successful she would want to expand in the future.
Since there are currently no local dispensaries, Merklin says she would export her product to Skagway or Juneau for now.
She encouraged the community to get behind the marijuana industry.
“I think it would be good for our community to take a supportive stance in this and be progressive about it,” said Merklin. “And accept that it’s something that is happening.”
Resident Tom Ganner said he supports the idea of cultivation and distribution, but is concerned that there are no local regulations.
“Our community should have a greater degree of self-determination with respect to the issuances of licenses and permits,” said Ganner. “Local public concerns should be acknowledged, respected and addressed.”
Going forward, the assembly could decide to get tighter on restrictions for pot businesses. And, they can protest licenses applications at the state level.
In Skagway, the borough restricted pot businesses in certain zones. For example, a retail marijuana store would need to get a conditional use permit in the business district.
Right now, each applicant is still waiting for the go-ahead from the state.
The state requires a 500 ft. buffer around school grounds, a recreation or youth center, a building in which religious services are regularly conducted, or a correctional facility. You can link to a preliminary map showing where buffer zones would fall in Haines, here. Borough Planner Holly Smith says anyone with suggestions of locations that might need a buffer but aren’t indicated on the map can contact her at email@example.com.