Smith introduces ordinance to ban commercial cannabis in Homer

A new ordinance to completely ban commercial cannabis in the city of Homer has been introduced by council member Heath Smith. The council has been considering and introduced another ordinance regulating cannabis activities by zoning district.

Smith’s ordinance, 16-06, would not allow any commercial cultivation, manufacturing, testing and sale of cannabis in city limits. Council member Gus VanDyke is a co-sponsor with Smith. The council considers Ordinance 16-06 at its regular meeting starting at 6 p.m. Monday in the Cowles Council Chambers, Homer City Hall.

“It’s completely opposite really to what’s on the table,” Smith said of his ordinance. “I’m not convinced that us inviting the industry into the city is necessarily going to benefit the city.”

At its last meeting on Jan. 25, the council voted to introduce Ordinance 16-04. That ordinance came to the council on the recommendation of the Homer Advisory Planning Commission. It would ban outright commercial cannabis activities within buffer zones of 500 feet from churches and 1,000 feet from schools and youth facilities. Other cannabis activities would be allowed in various zoning districts. For example, all commercial operations would be allowed in the General Commercial 1 and 2 and East End Mixed Use Districts and in the Central Business District. Cultivation wouldn’t be allowed in Rural Residential zoning districts.

The planning commission recommended retail sale of cannabis on the Homer Spit in the Marine Commercial district. The council amended Ordinance 16-04 to ban retail sale of cannabis on the Spit. It approved introduction of 16-04 and added a second public hearing for Feb. 22. Council member David Lewis has introduced a substitute to 16-04 that would allow limited cultivation of cannabis on lots 20,000-square-feet or more in the Rural Residential zoning district. The public can speak on that ordinance in a hearing on Monday. Final action, including any changes, would be at the Feb. 22 council meeting.

To be introduced, Smith’s ordinance would have to be seconded and get at least four votes on a motion to introduce the ordinance. If introduced, it also would go up for a second hearing on Feb. 22, with final action that night.

By a vote of 53 percent yes, Homer voters approved what Alaska passed with a citizen initiative in 2014 legalizing cannabis, also known as marijuana. That proposition legalized personal and commercial use of cannabis. It also allowed for local governments to regulate cannabis. Smith said by passing Ballot Measure 2, citizens voted to give cities the right to ban commercial cannabis activities entirely.

“That conversation hasn’t been had. We owe it to our community to have that discussion,” he said.

Under state marijuana regulations to go into effect on Feb. 21, if a city bans commercial cannabis, the Alcohol and Marijuana Regulatory Board cannot issue licenses for commercial cannabis within 10 miles of city limits in unincorporated areas. Smith’s ordinance would affect unincorporated areas of the Kenai Peninsula Borough in the Diamond Ridge, Skyline Drive and Fritz Creek areas, as well as the south side of Kachemak Bay, including Halibut Cove and Tutka Bay.

Smith said there’s a petition being circulated around town in support of a ban on commercial cannabis.

“It’s not just me introducing an ordinance. There’s some movement behind it,” he said.

People can speak on Smith’s ordinance at the beginning of the council meeting during the “public comments upon matters already on the agenda” portion of the meeting at 6 p.m. Monday. Comments on Ordinance 16-04(a) can be made during the public hearing on that ordinance. For a full copy of the agenda, the ordinances and the council packet, visit http://www.cityofhomer-ak.gov/citycouncil/city-council-regular-meeting-145.

Michael Armstrong can be reached at michael.armstrong@homernews.com.

 

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