Planning commission testimony on cannabis

  • By CHRIS PRUSSING
  • Monday, September 21, 2015 1:00am
  • Opinion

Having resided in Thane for over 40 years, I can agree with a neighbor’s letter to the Commission that Thane “is a real residential neighborhood.” As Thane has been in existence for over a century, there is quite a variety of buildings and types of land usage. Hearing concerns that a cannabis grow building might be a metal shed surrounded by barbed wire and security lights, I observed that my neighbor across the road has a giant vintage metal Quonset hut with a flood light capable of illuminating the entire lot; that another neighbor has their poultry yard surrounded by an 8-foot chain link fence with prison-style angled barbed-wire at the top to keep out bears (it didn’t work, a bear ate the turkeys).

Reading through the minutes of previous marijuana committee meetings was sufficient to convince me that our existing building and fire codes, zoning areas, and table of allowable uses are entirely adequate to permit safe facilities for cannabis cultivation. Likewise, there is an impressive body of expertise that has been developed about indoor gardens; they are not raggedy sheds, but high-tech operations.

If my neighbors with large garages (or Quonset huts…) or outbuildings or vacant lot space want to engage in cannabis cultivation in order to generate income, there seems to be no reasonable objection that such activity would reduce property values. Indeed, it might make land and buildings more valuable because of the increase in market demand and scarcity of such opportunities elsewhere in the Borough.

Cannabis cultivation need not be half-acre grow barns; there are also opportunities for more small-scale commercial growers that supply bedding plants to larger growers, or who specialize in varietals that do not adapt well to large monoculture operations. A network of small growers supplying plants to larger resin-producing and processing facilities could spread the economic benefit around more equitably. Market forces and inspections could take care of weeding out enterprises that fail to follow sound business practices.

Please consider:

Accepting the recommendation that D-l zones be permitted to engage in cannabis cultivation, subject to codes and inspections.

Considering a lower Level 2 permitting level for smaller cannabis grow operations, such as those producing vegetative state starter plants instead of a resin-producing crop, rather than a Level 3 Conditional Use Permit.

Setting no cap on the number of licenses, instead relying on inspection and competitive business practices (market forces) to control the number of these commercial garden operations Adding no further buffers to the recommended 200 feet from “child-centered facilities, churches and correctional facilities,” which already seem more restrictive than those allowed for bars, cigarette and liquor sales.

Thank you for reading this.

• Chris Prussing lives on Thane Road in Juneau.

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