City group wants $50 licenses for pot biz

If the City and Borough of Juneau marijuana committee gets its way, the city will require all marijuana businesses to obtain a $50 local license in addition to the state license that is already required.

The committee Thursday night moved an ordinance amending the Land Use Code that will “provide for the regulation of marijuana use and marijuana establishments” to the planning commission. The planning commission will review the ordinance before it is heard before the full Assembly for consideration.

The pot committee amended the ordinance extensively before finally deciding to move it along — the local licensure requirement was a hotly contested item. Debate broke out between committee members after Maria Gladziszewski, an Assembly member on the committee, moved to set the fee for the local license at $50. The debate was not so much about the cost as it was about the fact that the city would require a license at all.

“I would object to a license in general and the $50 fee,” committee member Bill Peters said, voicing his objection to Gladziszewski’s motion, which passed 4–3. Committee members Dennis Watson and Debbie White, who also sits on the Assembly, were the other “nay” votes. 

“I think if we start requiring a part license for a part industry it will snowball,” White said. “I’m against it altogether. It’s just big government. That’s all it is.” 

Gladziszewski and committee chair Jesse Kiehl, another Assembly member, argued that the change isn’t about overregulating, but about giving the city more control. Kiehl argued that the city law department had “tightly controlled and closely tailored” the ordinance to ensure that it was “snowball” proof.

Gladziszewski, Kiehl and Mayor Mary Becker, also a committee member, agreed that requiring a local license would give the city more teeth in dealing with businesses that violate city code because the city can pull their licenses.

“We’d have to go to the state, as Ms. Gladziszewski said in a previous meeting, and say, ‘Mother, may I?’ to enforce our laws,” Kiehl said. “If we find somebody who is not carding 20-year-olds, I don’t want to have to go to the state and say ‘please.’”

Community Development Department Planner Chrissy McNally pointed out during the meeting that the CDD actually doesn’t have an enforcement agent on staff who could potentially revoke a marijuana business’ license. Those committee members who voted ‘nay’ argued requiring a local license would create a need for that position, or as White put it, “another level of bureaucracy.”

Committee member Mike Satre, who said he was torn on this issue, was the swing vote that ended the licensure discussion. Thursday was the last meeting for both Watson and Satre, whose terms on the committee are finished.

Thursday marked the pot committee’s last regular meeting before the city’s moratorium on sales of marijuana is lifted at the start of 2016.

Before it ended, the committee also discussed sign regulations and recommended that the planning commission consider requiring marijuana businesses to post signage warning patrons of the potential dangers of marijuana and informing them where they are allowed to use and possess it. 

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