Anchorage Assembly finalizes pot regs; Jana Weltzin discusses

By: DJ Summers | Alaska Journal of Commerce
Anchorage’s marijuana industry is set to begin, with a final package of municipal requirements coming weeks before the Marijuana Control Board starts accepting licenses on Feb. 24.

Anchorage tightened certain regulations while holding off on others. New regulations increase buffer zones in Chugiak and Eagle River, add new buffer zone triggers to Anchorage marijuana businesses, bar small-scale commercial home grows, prohibit onsite consumption, and redraft the measurement standard between marijuana businesses and sensitive areas.

Most restrictively, property buffer distances have changed. The Assembly narrowly approved a 500-foot separation distance from schools, which halved the earlier proposed 1,000-foot separation. However, that distance is no longer measured by the shortest pedestrian route, but “as the crow flies,” and from property line to property line instead of from entrance to entrance.

This shortens distances some marijuana upstarts said they’d already counted on having nailed down, and nixes marijuana facilities adjacent to a sensitive area’s property line.

“Many of my clients’ spaces were fine this morning,” said Jana Weltzin, a marijuana business attorney. “And as of tonight, many are now back to square one after months of careful property location scouting and efforts.”

Weltzin said the Assembly’s final regulations make the industry impracticable — echoing earlier claims that the Assembly opens itself to legal challenge.

Assembly members emphasized that the ordinances will be an ongoing project and certainly be revised as time passes. Members maintained earlier sentiments about wanting to start slowly with the new industry, rather than open floodgates too quickly and have to scale them back. Caution, they said, should not be misinterpreted as antagonism.

“Politics is the art of the possible,” said chairman Dick Traini. “It’s a compromise. We’ve got a better document now. We’re going to have to tweak it. We want to see you guys successful.”