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Regulating marijuana on the local level: City, borough governments need to set up rules before the state does to meet community expectations

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Fairbanks Daily News-Miner editorial: 

News-Miner opinion: This week’s meeting of Fairbanks-area government leaders about how to regulate the sale of marijuana went well enough following last month’s passage of Measure 2 on the statewide ballot.

But the town hall meeting hosted by leaders of the Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly and the cities of North Pole and Fairbanks should be followed up by a series of more localized listening sessions.

And soon. 

One reason for this is our local governments need to ensure they have their rules and regulations in place before the Legislature passes the set of statewide rules, which it must do by late August, according to the ballot measure.

Waiting until after the state makes its rules could cause trouble, as noted in one example offered by Assembly Presiding Officer Karl Kassel. Mr. Kassel worried a delay in implementing local regulations could lead to a marijuana retailer being located in a place the community might find objectionable, like “between a daycare and a church.”

That’s a valid concern and argues for haste in deciding how to proceed.

Another reason to proceed quickly in this is that the three local governments will probably have different ideas on how to regulate — or whether to even allow — the marijuana sales made possible by passage of Ballot Measure 2. It’s important we determine, in a prompt fashion, what the various sub-communities in the borough want and don’t want.

Although Ballot Measure 2 won in most precincts within the borough, there were clear areas of opposition.

A majority of voters casting ballots in the city of North Pole, for example, opposed Measure 2. Majorities in the Fort Wainwright and Eielson precincts also voted against the measure, as did voters in a few other precincts in that portion of the borough.

Despite these differences, we do need a coordinated local approach by the borough and the cities within its boundaries.

Although it appears unlikely, based on the comments heard to date, that present leaders of the borough government will choose to ban pot sales entirely, Measure 2 does afford the local governments the ability to tailor some regulation. To figure out what will be most palatable, and to take into account the concerns of those where marijuana sales didn’t win on Election Day, our local leaders need to keep asking questions and listening to what residents have to say.

To do this, perhaps a series of listening sessions could be held by an advisory panel of one or two members each from the borough, and from the cities of Fairbanks and North Pole, as well as one representative each from the school board, Fort Wainwright and Eielson Air Force Base. The military should be included in this discussion since it has such a large presence in our community.

This panel could then collate the comments and make recommendations to three local governments for action.

Again, our leaders will need to act briskly. What we cannot afford is for our local elected officials to put a series of proposals to a public vote, whether binding or advisory. A vote already has occurred. Alaskans approved Ballot Measure 2 and spelled out the authority of local governments regarding the sale of marijuana.

Our local leaders should continue to sound out the public on how the matter should be handled and then they should act decisively.

The Daily News-Miner encourages residents to make themselves heard through the Opinion pages. Readers' letters and columns also appear online at newsminer.com. Contact the editor with questions at letters@newsminer.com or call 459-7574.

If you're interested in submitting a Letter to the Editor, click here.

Guidelines

The Daily News-Miner encourages residents to make themselves heard through the Opinion pages. Readers' letters and columns also appear online at newsminer.com. Contact the editor with questions at letters@newsminer.com or call 459-7574.

Community Perspective

Send Community Perspective submissions by mail (P.O. Box 70710, Fairbanks AK 99707) or via email (letters@newsminer.com). Submissions must be 500 to 750 words. Columns are welcome on a wide range of issues and should be well-written and well-researched with attribution of sources. Include a full name, email address, daytime telephone number and headshot photograph suitable for publication (email jpg or tiff files at 150 dpi.) You may also schedule a photo to be taken at the News-Miner office. The News-Miner reserves the right to edit submissions or to reject those of poor quality or taste without consulting the writer.

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