Juneau Assembly passes marijuana zoning ordinance; restricts cultivation in residential areas

On Monday night, the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly seemed to take a ping-pong approach to zoning rules for marijuana businesses.

There was a lot of back-and-forth, and at the end, the table hadn’t changed much.

The ordinance before the Assembly added marijuana businesses the CBJ’s Table of Permissible uses, which dictates which activities are permissible in certain zones. It was a change necessary to bring city code into line with Ballot Measure 2, passed by Alaska voters last year to allow the recreational sale of marijuana.

On Monday, there were five attempts to amend the ordinance, but the proposed additions were mostly defeated, leaving the proposal almost unchanged from its committee form.

Assembly member Mary Becker put forward a motion to remove all cultivation from D1 residential zones, which are usually used for single-family homes and duplexes on large lots. The motion was the evening’s most hotly debated proposed change, but it ultimately failed on a 4–4 vote.

Prior to Becker’s proposed amendment, the ordinance allowed for cultivation in D1 zones but only those outside Juneau’s urban service boundary. Assembly member Jesse Kiehl, chairman of the city’s marijuana committee, opposed the amendment.

“Given our limited land base and our high land costs in Juneau, to make this possible allowing cultivation outside the urban service boundary is probably the wisest course,” Kiehl told assembly members. Assembly member Debbie White also vocally opposed Becker’s amendment. Both mentioned that commercial agriculture is already allowed in these zones.

Becker was not without support, however. Assembly member Karen Crane spoke on behalf of Becker’s amendment.

“I would say that growing tomatoes is different than growing marijuana,” Crane said. “We’re not growing tomatoes or peonies here. We’re growing something else here, and we’re growing it in neighborhoods.”

Though Becker’s motion failed, Crane proposed three other amendments to the ordinance in an effort to look out for neighborhoods, she said. Her motions included removing retail operations from Rural Reserve Zones, limiting the size of cultivation operations in D1 districts to less than 500 square feet (D1 lots have a minimum size of 36,000 square feet) and prohibiting processing facilities within 1,000 feet of recognized neighborhood associations in Rural Reserve zones. The latter two amendments passed but will not greatly impact the overall effect of the ordinance, Kiehl said.

Under Alaska statutes implemented by Ballot Measure 2, marijuana businesses can be licensed for retail sales, testing facilities, product manufacturing (think edible and drinkable marijuana products) and cultivation — marijuana farms.  

Under the newly passed ordinance the different licenses will be restricted to various zones:

• Rural Reserve: retail, testing, manufacturing, cultivation

• D1: cultivation only

• Light Commercial: retail, testing, cultivation

• General Commercial: retail, testing, manufacturing, cultivation

• Mixed Use: retail, testing, manufacturing,

• Mixed Use 2: retail, testing,

• Waterfront Commercial: retail, manufacturing,

• Waterfront industrial: retail, manufacturing

• Industrial: retail, cultivation

After the marijuana ordinance was accepted, the Assembly began consideration of a contract to demolish the fire-damaged Gastineau Apartments. Results of that vote were not available by press time.

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