In November of 2014, after years of serious study and contentious debate, the people of Alaska voted to legalize marijuana. Alaskans have always been true to their libertarian leanings and this was another example. Good people are now able to proceed with their productive lives without an anachronistic law hanging over their heads.
Now we are faced with another reflexive reaction to that vote: Proposition 1, which bans the cultivation and production of commercial cannabis products on the Kenai Peninsula. We are being asked to decide if cannabis should be allowed in our Borough, again. This is only delaying the inevitable; by the time the citizens accept what will eventually be the norm we may be too late to play a role in this robust industry.
During a meeting with members of the Assembly in 2015, the Kenai Peninsula Economic Development District (KPEDD) boasted about their support and subsequent success of a local start-up brewery. KPEDD’s enthusiasm was soundly based in the very real strengthening of the economic environment on the Kenai Peninsula. Why aren’t we just as supportive of the cannabis industry? We all benefit from a strong economy regardless of how removed we may be individually.
Meanwhile other boroughs and communities across Alaska are reaping the benefits of this new economy. This is a fledgling industry, yet it has already contributed $1 million to the state coffers and over $100,000 to KPB’s sales tax. The cannabis industry has already created over 100 new jobs, a number that is sure to rise.
What we know about healthy economies is that they must be diversified. When one sector is down another is up; this helps stabilize our local economy. We should be proud that we can take care of ourselves and not depend on outside help to get us through the hard times.
The cannabis industry is just one of the sectors that contributes to the overall health of our local economy. We need to stand up and support our local friends and neighbors for investing their time and money in this new industry.
It is time to move forward and accept that the voters have spoken. The benefits will far outweigh any concerns. We cannot afford to let this opportunity pass us by. Vote NO on Proposition 1.
Mako Haggerty is a local business owner and a former Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly member.