Fix to Borough Marijuana Business Loophole Delayed

The effort to close a loophole in Mat-Su Borough code regarding commercial marijuana facilities in some areas suffered a setback on Tuesday night, and will have to wait until the new year. KTNA’s Phillip Manning has more:

As it is currently written, borough code requires conditional use permits for any commercial marijuana operation, with the unintended exception of special land use districts. Currently, the loophole only impacts Talkeetna.

The owners of The High Expedition hope to open a marijuana retail store near the end of Talkeetna’s Main Street, which lies inside a special use district. Without a change to borough code, they would not need a borough permit, and the accompanying public process to do so.

Earlier this month, the Mat-Su Borough Assembly fast-tracked an amendment to code that would close the loophole. The amendment went through the borough’s Marijuana Advisory Committee and Planning Commission, and was scheduled for a vote by the Assembly on Tuesday. That vote has now been postponed until the January 10th meeting due to an error in advertising the agenda.

Alaska state law requires notice of meetings and agenda items that will be voted on at any public meeting. The exact nature of the error was not made clear at Tuesday’s meeting, and Assembly Member Randall Kowalke says he does not know exactly what went wrong, but was informed prior to Tuesday’s meeting that there would not be a vote. Lonnie McKechnie the Mat-Su Borough Clerk, is out of the office and will not be reachable for comment until next week.

Two Talkeetnans spoke at Tuesday’s meeting. Geri McCann is concerned about the impact she believes a marijuana dispensary on Main Street will have on the community. McCann is disappointed with the delay in closing the permit loophole.

“I will say I am kind of reeling that there was another mistake made, and we’re not able to have this taken care of tonight. I feel like there’s been a series of let-downs and set-ups for Talkeetna.”

Joe McAneney one of the owners of The High Expedition, is also disappointed. He says his business may suffer delays in opening its doors due to the time it is taking to fix the error in borough code.

“What am I supposed to do now? I was hoping this would get passed tonight, and I could submit my conditional use permit tomorrow. Now, I can’t even submit it. That means I’m held up. It’s a detriment to my business, and there’s already someone in Talkeetna who’s been grandfathered. I have an application at the state level that’s in process. It’s under review, and I anticipate to be approved February 2nd.”

The business that has been grandfathered into the current version of borough code is Talkeetna Herb Company, a marijuana cultivation facility along the Talkeetna Spur Road.

If Joe McAneney’s estimate of when his business will receive its state license is accurate, it still won’t be covered by the current loophole, provided there are not additional delays in amending borough code to close it.

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