The clock is ticking for Sitka’s Marijuana Advisory Committee. State regulations go into effect February 21 and the group has yet to forward its recommendations to the assembly on what a pot industry might look like here. Over the past several months, the nine-member committee has considered zoning, excise taxes, and product testing for the now-legal recreational substance. They continued to work the kinks out at a meeting this week.
The committee has a short list of recommendations: to allow on-site consumption of marijuana much in the same way as bars, share commercial marijuana applications with the electric department, and to have testing for pesticides and potency determined by a local regulatory authority.
Here’s Bob Potrzuski, who sits on both the committee and the assembly:
“We’ve been meeting since the end of October and we only have four bullet points,” he said.
That doesn’t seem like a lot. But commercializing marijuana has been a complicated process, full of unforeseen problems that will most likely continue to be hashed out as businesses start getting set up.
In the committee’s defense, Chairman Levi Albertson says that it took hours to arrive at consensus on those points. . The members were waiting to see what the state would do in a lot of cases, like for taxes, before making a firm recommendation. At present, the body favors taxing marijuana at the city’s sales tax rate. But the members haven’t agreed on what excise taxes to charge to the wholesaler.
The committee has also heard reports from the city’s water and electric departments to find out if commercial grow operations would have a negative affect on waste water or power. The impact is expected to be small, so the committee is suggesting that those businesses pay the normal commercial rate, says committee member Pamela Ash.
“Not making them pay through the nose because some people don’t like marijuana,” Ash said. “To me it’s really important that they’re treated equally as any other business startup.”
One of the biggest matters the group has been discussing is product testing. The state Marijuana Control Board wanted to provide exceptions to testing requirements for rural areas but the Department of Law nixed that allowance last month, requiring all marijuana to be tested for bacteria and THC content.
That could make business ‘unreasonably impracticable’ for towns off the road system that do not have testing facilities, entrepreneur Aaron Bean told the committee earlier this month. Federal law does not allow the transportation of marijuana by air or water.
“It’s not just Sitka we’re talking about,” he said. “Any community that’s not on the road system up there in Anchorage, Mat Su Valley, Kenia Peninsula and Fairbanks. I understand a lot of the populations is there but there is also a lot of people lot who aren’t there. The industry exists now. We’ve just got to figure this out.”
Bean plans to start growing and selling pot in Sitka once he gets the proper permits. He has asked the state Marijuana Control Board to make an amendment that would allow Sitka’s local regulatory authority to have oversight on testing, which the committee supports.
“I would suggest that they have someone at the municipality testing these things with the home testing kits that just gives you a basic there’s no pesticides, no mold, basic health concerns,” Bean said. “Those are kits you can buy and you can test anything from the story, anything you consume.”
Sitka’s marijuana advisory committee continues to discuss its role in the future. Members are in favor of the committee continuing as the local regulatory authority that meets to consider business requests and permits as the industry evolves, similar to the planning commission.
The state Marijuana Control Board will hear Aaron Bean’s request at their meeting Feb. 11th. Sitka’s marijuana advisory committee meets again at 7 next Monday night in the Sealing Cove Business Center to consider packaging and serving size of pot products.