While the city of Soldotna is now a local regulatory authority — allowing it to profit from the commercial production, testing and sale of marijuana — no businesses will be selling, growing or testing marijuana in Soldotna for the next two years.
The Soldotna City Council on Dec. 9 voted to put a moratorium on allowing marijuana businesses to open in the city after more than an hour of testimony from the public.
Opponents of the measure said the council members were reacting out of fear and ignorance about the ongoing cultivation, sale and consumption of marijuana already happening within city limits.
“The law allows it, the market desires it, so why would this body prohibit … the best answer I can come up with is fear. Fear that regulating sale is somehow a personal endorsement,” said council member Keith Baxter.
Baxter and council member Meggean Bos-Marquez were the only two members of the city council to vote against the moratorium. It was introduced by council member Regina Daniels who said she wanted to halt the spread of commercial marijuana business within city limits out of a sense of responsibility.
“This is a moratorium that was written by our city attorney and what it will do is ban the sales and cultivation of marijuana in the city limits for two years which I think is important, to give us time to be responsible …. as a government, to see how this plays out within the state and within other municipalities and we can learn from them on how to move forward,” Daniels said after she introduced her ordinance.
Marc Thieler testified to the council that he’d been involved with the issue “on the philosophical level,” for about three years as he worked to end the prohibition on marijuana.
“From the beginning, it was clear that this wasn’t a matter of facts and data and decorum … what I’ve seen across the board is a battle of ideology rather than fairness,” he said.
Thieler questioned why council members who chose to fight against allowing commercial marijuana businesses would not also fight against alcohol and tobacco and other “poisons,” available for community members to buy within city limits.
“We pretend that one poison is better than another,” he said. “It’s hypocrisy and the illusion of being fair … it’s a battle of ideology and it’s a battle of cherry picking liberty.”
Proponents of the moratorium said the city should wait to see how the state, borough and surrounding cities regulate commercial marijuana before establishing its own set of rules.
“I don’t see any reason for us to jump on the band wagon,” said council member Linda Murphy. “I just don’t think we’re ready for it in town at this time.”
Rashah McChesney is the city editor for the Peninsula Clarion.