Alaska Editorials



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Here is a sampling of editorial opinions from Alaska newspapers:

Feb. 28, 2015

Ketchikan Daily News: Alaska's could find itself in boiling pot with marijuana

When the euphoria dissipates, Alaska will realize that the pot in which it has positioned itself is boiling over.

A new marijuana law took effect this week, which eventually will allow for commercial sales and personal purchase for possession in private homes.

A Ketchikan business immediately began selling pot-smoking paraphernalia.

Meanwhile, also downtown, a few smokers on the sidewalk outside another business passed around a marijuana pipe, filling the air with smoke.

The smokers clearly violated the law. Smoking pot in public is still illegal.

Given the location of this week's public display, local officials and authorities likely will be eager to address behavior that won't exactly make Ketchikan an appealing place for most cruise ship passengers and other visitors, and, of course, locals not enthralled with the new law.

Years ago an author described in a book following a visit to Alaska the inebriates he saw in downtown Ketchikan. Ketchikan doesn't need or want another author to pen a similar scene when it comes to marijuana.

Ketchikan invests too much financial capital into attracting upstanding business to let its fine reputation as a visitor destination go up in smoke. Ketchikan's borough and city leaders met Friday and decided to form a committee to address concerns and establish guidelines in regard to Alaska's new, relaxed pot law.

The state Senate this week introduced a bill to define the rules for commercial sales of marijuana statewide. People in support of the marijuana ballot initiative that passed in November mainly asked for more clarification and fewer generalities. People who believe the new law eventually will prove to be devastating to the state and its communities will seek tough regulations and simply will wait until the time is appropriate to sway voters to rescind it. Costs, both socially and economically, will be forthcoming for individuals and governments. Taxes will be necessary to address the situation, and they should be high enough to realistically cover the costs.

The Senate bill should limit commercial marijuana dispensaries from being within 200 feet of a school, correctional facility or church. In Ketchikan, a church is established in a building within that distance from a commercial marijuana products business.

It also would set the hours of operation between 8 a.m. to midnight and the size of purchase per person per day to one ounce. That simply means more frequent traffic into businesses handling commercial sales, and for those leery of making public purchases, the opportunity to do it in the dark of evening.

The proposed law states that packaging must be childproof, which only protects young children if adults act responsibly with a container. It won't protect older children who have skills often unbeknownst to adults when it comes to getting into stuff they aren't supposed to.

The proposed law outlaws packaging of marijuana products in such a way as to be enticing to minors. Whatever that means, packaging should be explicit as to what it contains for both children and adults. Even adults can be fooled by packaging, buying one thing (a product containing pot) when they think they're purchasing another (product without marijuana).

Plus, pot products should be isolated to their own spot in a store. That spot should be clearly identifiable for shoppers, whether they seek pot products or not.

The Senate bill also lists six licenses that could be required if it passes that body and the state House and is signed by the governor.

The licenses would be required of marijuana producers, processors, retailers, testing facilities, boutique producers, home growers and brokers.

The new law already has taken considerable time and money from Alaskans. Before this commercialization experiment is concluded, it will take even more. Much of it will have gone up in smoke, and Alaska won't be better for it.

But the governments are doing their best to deal with it.


Feb. 26, 2015

Peninsula Clarion: Marijuana regulations need to be balanced

There has been a flurry of headlines regarding marijuana over the past week as lawmakers and regulators attempt to address the legalization of the drug for recreational use, which took effect Tuesday.

There are a number of issues yet to be clarified, but it will require some give and take to come up with measures that everyone involved can live with.

At the state level, the Legislature on Wednesday introduced a preliminary plan for regulating the commercial marijuana industry. According to the Associated Press, the bill details the types of marijuana-related business licenses that would be available, specifies that they can only be granted to Alaska residents and includes ways for communities to control local licensing decisions.

Also this week, Alcoholic Beverage Control Board released a definition for "in public" — the voter initiative legalizing marijuana prohibits its use in public, but did not provide a definition — and lawmakers continue to work on measures to address personal use and state law.

Meanwhile, the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly voted down a measure that would have given voters the opportunity to weigh in on whether commercial cultivation should be allowed in the borough's unincorporated areas, and the Soldotna City Council postponed a vote on an ordinance to regulate marijuana in the city. The Kenai City Council has a marijuana ordinance on its agenda for next week's meeting.

Already, some of the debates have been heated — when is the last time nine people testified on an issue before the assembly, never mind the 90 that commented on Tuesday? — as one side or another proposes an all-or-nothing regulatory solution.

However, the fact of the matter is that there are almost as many different viewpoints on marijuana as there are people in our community. The peninsula as a whole was evenly split on the legalization initiative in last November's election. That means that developing regulatory measures is going to require some compromise, with reasonable restrictions and reasonable allowances. Outright bans are going to be met with opposition, as will a laissez-faire attitude from local governments.

We encourage lawmakers, regulators and members of the community to continue to work toward regulations that protect communities but still allow for reasonable access to what is now a legal substance.

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