Posted June 5, 2015 03:10 pm

HIGHER EDUCATION: The local option

Back when voters were considering Ballot Measure 2, one of the biggest arguments against the measure (and the one heard loudest in rural Alaska) was the fact that local communities couldn't opt out of legalization.

That's because of Ravin v. State, the 1975 Alaska Supreme Court decision that said Alaskans have the right to possess (and use) marijuana in the privacy of their own homes. Ballot Measure 2 didn't touch the local option issue because of that decision.

Now, a community might not be able to ban the use of marijuana, but it might soon be able to ban its sale

The first set of marijuana regulations being considered by the alcoholic beverage control board (public comment on the set opened May 19 and closes June 20, email john.calder@alaska.gov to submit yours) includes "a series of provisions establishing a local governing body’s ability, by ordinance or popular vote, to opt out of allowing marijuana establishments to operate in their jurisdiction."

More than half of the first set of regulations being considered by the alcohol board (and, presumably, the marijuana board, once it gets seated) deals with the local option.

There are a lot of places in Alaska that ban either possession of alcohol or its sale or importation. Bans for marijuana, as proposed in the draft regulations, would follow the same procedure: Residents or the city council would vote. To get it on the ballot requires a petition containing 35 percent of the number of voters who participated in the last general election.

If a town votes to ban marijuana sale and importation (remember, banning possession/use isn't possible because of Ravin v. State), it wouldn't be able to vote on the topic again for two years.  

If there's already a marijuana business in a town when the local option ban passes, that business would have 90 days after the certification of the election to close up shop.

There's also a quirk in alcohol regulations that's been transferred over to the marijuana regulation proposal: the idea of a city-run store. Just like towns can decide to run their own liquor store, the proposed regulations allow for a town-owned or -run marijuana store.

The local option regulations, again, are open for public comment through June 20 and will be heard by the alcohol board (or the marijuana board, if it's ready) on July 2 in Fairbanks.

NEXT TIME: Definitions in Set 1.

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