FAIRBANKS—The three local governing bodies in the Fairbanks North Star Borough will hold a special public forum Tuesday about the new voter-approved law legalizing the growing, possession and sale of marijuana in Alaska.
The Borough Assembly and the Fairbanks and North Pole city councils will host the special inter-governmental work session at the Pioneer Park Civic Center beginning at 6 p.m.
Ballot Measure 2 passed with 53 percent of the vote in the Nov. 4 election, making Alaska the fourth state to legalize the sale of marijuana in the last several years. Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell certified the election result on Wednesday.
With the measure's certification, the 90-day countdown toward the measure becoming law began. Even then, the measure gives the state most of the year to set up a system for the sale of marijuana in Alaska.
Elected officials and staff from the borough and cities will provide an overview of the ballot measure and what its passage entails, followed by a public comment period and a discussion of potential regulations at the city and borough level.
Assembly Presiding Officer Karl Kassel said the meeting has several purposes — to discuss the avenues of action afforded to local governments by the ballot measure, to solicit feedback on courses of action and to dispel myths and inaccuracies.
"Ballot Measure 2 is going to be enacted 90 days from the election being certified. Locally we need to figure out what we need to do in response to that," Kassel said.
Though the sale of marijuana will be legalized statewide, local governments will still be able to have some control. For instance, a local government can implement zoning regulations to disallow the sale in certain areas or completely ban the sale within its jurisdiction, as one Anchorage Assembly member has proposed.
Kassel said the assembly doesn't yet have plans for how it might begin to regulate the sale of marijuana in the borough. Tuesday's meeting will be the first time any of the three groups has officially held a discussion on regulating marijuana since the measure's passing.
"We don't discuss the marijuana retail establishments at all in our code," Kassel said. "I assume assembly members are interested in adding those to our code to determine what zones they would be appropriate in and what zones they would not be appropriate in."
North Pole Mayor Bryce Ward said he was looking forward to hearing how community members feel North Pole should regulate marijuana at the meeting. Whatever the city decides to do will ultimately be the decision of the City Council, he said, though he said he hopes to see what the state comes up with before passing onerous local regulations.
"We're not really sure what their requirements are going to be," Ward said. "I would hate to go out and start passing laws here in the Interior that would be in conflict with something the state has."
Kassel emphasized the local governments' limited power to add to the laws created by the ballot measure. For instance, the borough and cities cannot ban the possession or use of marijuana. Nor can they implement such high taxes as to essentially make its sale impossible, he said.
In the end, whatever decisions the Borough Assembly makes will likely be influenced by the decisions made by the Fairbanks and North Pole city councils, according to Kassel.
"I think if both cities had strong feelings on a particular item, that would weigh heavily on the borough, too," he said. "With our three local government bodies, it would be nice if we're all on the same page."
Contact staff writer Weston Morrow at 459-7520. Follow him on Twitter: @FDNMschools.