The two year moratorium banning cannabis business in the city of Soldotna is set to expire at the end of the year. But that doesn’t mean to expect pot shops in the city limits any time soon.
When voters across the state approved a new recreational and commercial cannabis industry in 2014, the city of Soldotna took a wait and see approach. With its two year moratorium about to end, the city council has apparently seen enough.
An ordinance was introduced this week that would extend the ban on commercial cannabis operations indefinitely. The topic originally came up back in April, when the city administration was looking for some guidance with the end of the moratorium looming. They asked, do we draft rules for a new industry, or do we draft rules prohibiting that industry?
Council member Tim Cashman put the motion forward at that time.
“I look at a couple of vacant buildings in town and I drive by and I think I would hate to see a sign that said ‘get high at the Y’. It’s a personal opinion. I know the town is pretty split on it. We have enough issues and things going on in town here. At the same time, we’re trying to fund teen centers and boys and girls clubs and alcohol and everything else that’s going on in the world, I think if people really need to get marijuana, we’re not going to stop them from doing it.”
Several people spoke against even introducing the ordinance. No public comments were in favor. But a central point emerged from that testimony, essentially asking the council why it has a problem with pot, but not alcohol?
And indeed, city manager Mark Dixon spent time Wednesday night explaining the lengths to which the city administration has gone to try and liberalize alcohol sales for restaurants; specifically, addressing state laws regarding the issue of liquor licenses.
“I find it crazy that we have a mexican restaurant that can’t serve a margarita," Dixon said. "The laws here are just totally upside down. The state law gives local municipalities wide jurisdictions, as most of you are here tonight (for), with regard to marijuana. But when it comes to a beer and wine license, our hands are tied. We’ve been fighting this battle for the state for two years. We weren’t invited to meetings. We interjected ourselves into meetings. We were rather bullish and rather rude about this and we are continuing to fight this battle.”
The battle over cannabis will continue as well. A public hearing on the ordinance to ban marijuana businesses in the city is set for September 13th.