National Public Radio image.

National Public Radio image.

The Skagway Borough Assembly started a conversation last week about what legalization of marijuana in the state will mean locally. At the committee of the whole meeting, the assembly members said they would not ban marijuana business establishments, but the group did not make any decisions about local regulations.

Last year, out of about 400 Skagway residents who voted on Ballot Measure 2, 71 percent supported marijuana legalization. That sentiment was reflected in most of the public comment at the Thursday meeting. But one person did speak against pot legalization.

“It’s just damn unsafe, it’s unhealthy, and it’s idiotic for people to use this stuff,” said local business owner Ed Fairbanks. He was concerned about people working at places like construction sites under the influence of marijuana.


The rest of the public comment focused on how the municipality can best move forward with a local legal marijuana industry.

“[I’m] not a recreational drug user myself, despite that, I did vote to support the legalization of marijuana,” said Jim Sager. “I think it’s a requirement for us as a community to provide a legal means for people to obtain this newly legalized substance so that we can do away with back-alley shenanigans and what have you that I’m sure has preceded this.”

Sager said the municipality should manage the new market responsibly by capping the number of marijuana business licenses allowed. Valerie Zimbrich and J. Ellingson said the borough should give locals preference.

“I hope that it goes to somebody local,” Zimbrich said. “The money needs to stay in Skagway.”

“I’d like to see another local have that opportunity rather than someone outside to come in, profit from this new business proposal and take that money out of Skagway,” Ellingson said.

The assembly members recognized the potential economic benefits of the weed industry. But Assemblyman Tim Cochran said actually starting a marijuana business is not going to be easy.

He pointed to the multitude of proposed regulations from the state Marijuana Control Board. The regulations are in a public comment period right now. They would charge $5,000 for a pot retailer’s license. But that’s not the only expense. Since marijuana possession is still a federal crime, it’s unclear how it could be transported in and out of Skagway. So, there will likely be a need for a local cultivation facility, which requires a $5,000 license, and a testing facility, $1,000 license, to measure the potency of the product.

“The state is making it very stringent,” Cochran said. “And labeling, testing, monitoring, transportation — everything is going to be closely scrutinized.”

The assembly also had questions about how cruise ship visitors will factor into the new industry.

“Is there anything wrong with somebody getting off the ship, coming down, buying it and getting back on the ship?” Dan Henry asked.

The assembly admitted it’s going to be complicated to figure out the state and federal regulations and draw up local rules. The state plans to begin issuing marijuana business licenses in May of next year. Before anyone sets up shop, the assembly plans to determine how many local licenses they will allow and how to tax marijuana products. But that discussion has only just begun.

The public comment period on for the draft state marijuana regulations ends November 11. The Marijuana Control Board hopes to adopt final regulations by November 23. You can submit comments here.