Borough assembly dumps ordinance prohibiting marijuana cultivation

Borough assembly dumps ordinance prohibiting marijuana cultivation

After hours of public testimony during Tuesday’s regular meeting of the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly, the assembly voted down an ordinance that, if passed, would have placed before voters in October the operation of marijuana cultivation facilities in areas of the borough outside cities.

Ordinance 2015-02, sponsored by Kelly Wolf of Kenai, failed on a six no, three yes vote. The no votes were cast by Wayne Ogle of Kenai, Dale Bagley of Soldotna, Sue McClure of Seward, Brent Johnson of Clam Gulch, Mako Haggerty of the southern Kenai Peninsula and Kelly Cooper of Homer. The yes votes were cast by Wolf, Blaine Gilman of Kenai and Stan Welles of Sterling.

As Assembly President Bagley announced results of the vote, the audience at the Soldotna meeting erupted in applause.

Prior to the vote, McClure offered an amendment that brought wording of the ordinance into alignment with the wording of Alaska Statute 17.38.020, the state’s marijuana laws. McClure asked for unanimous consent of the amendment, but failed to get it when Haggerty and Cooper voted no. With the remaining seven assembly members voting yes, the amendment passed.  

More than 20 residents of the southern Kenai Peninsula crowded into the KPB satellite office in Homer to testify telephonically during Tuesday’s meeting. Dennis Wade, a 40-year Homer-area resident, was the first to the microphone. Wade, who uses medical marijuana to manage back pain, spoke in opposition to the ordinance.

“I would ask you not to pass this resolution. If cultivation is outlawed here, it will stay in the status quo. That’s in the black market and with outlaw growers,” said Wade, who is interested in developing a commercial grow operation. 

Shane Monroe of the Kachemak Cannabis Consultancy summed up his objections to the ordinance by challenging its enforceability, questioning its ability to withstand inevitable challenges and pointing to what he called its “unreasonability.”

Beth Carroll of Fritz Creek followed Monroe to the microphone to express her opposition to Ordinance 2015-02. Carroll and many of those testifying urged the assembly to wait and see what action the Legislature would take in fine-tuning the state’s new marijuana laws.

Joshua Nordstrom pointed out that only 20 percent of Kenai Peninsula residents live in urban areas and that the ordinance would “bring agriculture into city limits when it’s traditionally meant for rural areas.”

Following the testimony of Homer residents, all of it opposing the ordinance, the assembly heard public comments at the assembly chambers in Soldotna. It was a mixture of support and opposition for Wolf’s ordinance. The views expressed came from residents of Nikiski, Kenai, Soldotna, Sterling, Kasilof, Ninilchik and additional Homer residents attending the Soldotna meeting.

Jennifer Waller of Sterling warned that the use of marijuana led to using other substances.

“It was definitely a gateway for me, my family members,” said Waller, who supported the ordinance.

Kenai trial lawyer Joe Skrha summed up his argument against the ordinance with three points: the intent of commercial grow operations to clean up the black market; in his years of practice, he had represented thousands of cases involving driving under the influence of alcohol, but couldn’t remember any client being arrested for DUI marijuana; and “the classic example” of Gunnison, Colo., a city that chose to be “dry” with regard to marijuana, but a year later realized it had lost more than $15 million in tax money.

“Don’t be scared of this stuff,” Skrha told the assembly.

After hearing all the public testimony — 70 testifying in opposition to the ordinance and 22 in favor of it, according to Haggerty’s count — Wolf explained what motivated him to sponsor the ordinance. In addition to concerns about what would happen to a residence’s “curb appeal” if a marijuana farm were started across the street or next door or even down the road, he also considered the breakdown in the November general election of the vote that passed Ballot Measure 2, an act to tax and regulate the production, sale and use of marijuana.

“I started looking at precincts, the breakdown, and realized the majority of the Kenai Peninsula didn’t pass this (ballot measure),” said Wolf.

According to election results provided by the state Division of Election, Ballot Measure failed in House District 30, which includes Kenai and Soldotna, with 4,169 no votes and 3,558 yes voted, the yes votes outnumbering the no’s in only two precincts. In House District 31, the southern Kenai Peninsula, the ballot measure passed with 4,635 yes votes and 3,900 no votes, and only two precincts where the no’s outnumbered the yes votes.

“Looking at Ballot Measure 2, it was real clear it gave the individual municipalities the right and choice and voice to choose what they wanted to have happen,” said Wolf.

Cooper said with the Legislature months away from efforts to implement the state’s new marijuana laws, Wolf’s ordinance was premature. Cooper also said she intended to bring forward a resolution for the assembly’s approval that would develop a board to monitor legislation at the state level and report back to the assembly. Being better educated would then help the assembly decide if additional action should be put before borough voters.

Haggerty used his family’s experience to point out the toll marijuana laws can take on individuals and families. When Haggerty was in the eighth grade, his father was arrested for being in possession of marijuana.

“They (law enforcement) came into the house, raided the house, basically, and then the threat was they were going to take us away from our mom and dad. I loved my mom and dad and my sisters and the system was going to take us away from our mom and dad and it was scary. I was terrified,” said Haggerty. “So, for us to sit here and talk about going backwards to those days, that’s about the most irresponsible thing I can think of.”

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at 

More in News

Clem Tillion of Halibut Cove poses for a photo on Jan. 9, 2020, in Homer, Alaska. The veteran Alaska legislator was passing through Homer while waiting to take the M/V Tustumena ferry to Kodiak. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)
Clem Tillion, PFD founder and former legislator, dies at 96

Tillion died Wedneday, Oct. 13, at Halibut Cove home.

Thunder Mountain High School on April 18.  Earlier this fall, vandalism including stolen soap dispensers and toilets clogged with foreign objects such as paper towel rolls were a problem at schools nationwide and in Juneau. But, principals say the local situation is improving. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
After brief surge, vandalism subsiding at local high schools

Principals say internet trends, stress likely behind incidents.

In this Jan. 8, 2020, photo Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, heads to a briefing on Capitol Hill in Washington. An Alaska man faces federal charges after authorities allege he threatened to hire an assassin to kill Murkowski, according to court documents unsealed Wed., Oct. 6, 2021. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite,File)
Delta Junction man faces charges over threatening Murkowski’s life

Authorities allege he threatened to hire an assassin to kill the senator.

Donna Aderhold recites the Homer City Council oath of office and is sworn in for duty at the city council meeting on Oct. 11. (Photo by Sarah Knapp/Homer News)
New council members sworn into duty Monday

Newly-elected Homer City Council members Shelly Erickson and Jason Davis and re-elected… Continue reading

Runners participate in boys varsity race at the Ted McKenney XC Invitational on Saturday, Aug. 21, 2021, at Tsalteshi Trails just outside of Soldotna, Alaska. The trails recently reported incidents of vandalism and theft. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Vandalism and theft reported at Tsalteshi Trails

One trail user reported stolen skis recently and multiple signs have been defaced.

At left Bonita Banks, RN, Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) nurse at Homer Medical Center, and at right, Annie Garay, RN, Community Health Educator, pose for a photo at South Peninsula Hospital on Sept. 27, 2021, at Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Derotha Ferraro/South Peninsula Hospital)
New hospital community health educator starts

Garay, a Homer raised nurse, came home to ride out COVID-19, wound up doing pandemic nursing.

The logo for the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District is displayed inside the George A. Navarre Borough Admin Building on Thursday, July 22, 2021 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Montessori school goes to universal indoor masking

As of Tuesday, eight KPBSD schools were operating with universal indoor masking for staff and students.

Commercial fishing and other boats are moored in the Homer Harbor in this file photo. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)
Seawatch: Crabbers look at cuts to quotas

Tanner, opilio crab quotas cut on top of cancellation of fall king crab fishery.

Gavel (Courtesy photo)
Judge sides with psychiatrists who alleged wrongful firing

Two psychiatrists said they were wrongfully fired when Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy took office.

Most Read