On Oct. 3, 2017, the residents that live outside of city limits on the Kenai Peninsula Borough will be voting to decide whether or not they wish to halt the cannabis industry operating in the borough.
This will not impact local municipalities, such as Homer, Seward, Kenai or Soldotna.
I want to give a few reasons why we should VOTE NO against banning this fledgling industry.
#1- There are roughly 33 licensed and active cannabis businesses operating in the borough today, with several more going through the licensing process.
#2- There are roughly 100 people employed within the cannabis industry in the borough right now, all of which are paying federal income taxes which eventually trickles down to Alaska and the borough. About 100-200 more jobs are expected once the licenses in waiting are approved.
#3- For fiscal year 2017, roughly $16,500 has been generated in just licensing fees. Fiscal year 2018 shows $7,500. What’s important to note here is that these fees cycle every year as each licensee must reapply every year. There are also many licenses in queue and who knows how many that will apply in the future once this vote goes through and if a majority of us votes NO.
#4- Sales tax. For every single gram of cannabis that is sold in the borough it is taxed at the rate of 3.5 percent. If one gram of cannabis sells at $10 a gram (that’s a low figure), you generate $0.35 per gram in sales tax. One pound of cannabis is worth $156.80 at $10/gram.
#5- Excise tax. For every single pound of cannabis sold, the state takes in $800. Half of this goes right to the Department of Corrections; the rest is placed into the general fund which pays for schools, roads, and all the other important things the state manages that we all need. In the first year of production, the industry generated close to $1 million in excise tax revenues.
Shutting down this industry now will only serve to be counter productive for our community. With dividends being cut in half and the state in a type of “fiscal crisis” it makes even more sense to not only keep this sustainable industry going, but see what we can do to assist it.
One area that we could see new revenues is through cannabis tourism and our local chamber of commerces should be able to integrate our tourism industry with the cannabis industry to make this a reality.
As far as the cons, I hear a lot of people complain about cannabis and how they don’t want kids to be sucked into it or they just don’t want to see a “drug culture.” Let me make something clear; cannabis is around, it always has been, always will be and prohibition has NEVER worked.
If anything, all that prohibition has ever done has exposed nonviolent people to more violence and harder drugs. Locking people up over cannabis or disenfranchising them makes them lose hope in life and then we all wonder why they use harmful substances. It’s simple folks, they gave up because they have no hope in life.
If anything, keeping the cannabis on an unregulated market creates a shroud of mystery when it comes to knowing the potency or safety of the cannabis. Whilst I believe the state could go further in their testing requirements, such as testing for pesticides, I think we will at least know if the cannabis is pure, or is laced with harmful substances. Cannabis won’t pass testing if it’s laced with heroine folks and that licensee is 100 percent likely to face criminal charges.
The point I am trying to make is instead of having this less-harmful-than-alcohol substance in the shadows, we need to bring it out to a place where we know the potency, we know if it’s pure, and we know that minors are not able to buy it from the legal market.
In fact, minors aren’t even able to go into a retail store. In alcohol establishments or liquor stores, it’s common to see children with their parents, or what about at MOST restaurants that serve alcohol. How many times have you seen dad or mom with a beer drinking in front of their kids at a restaurant or other venue? Do your kids see this? Where is your outrage when this is going on?
This won’t happen with the legal cannabis industry. If a parent chooses to consume in front of their children at home, that’s their choice. You won’t see that in public and your kids won’t have to see people consume if we do this right, which includes providing an out-of-public venue where folks can consume. If you do see people consuming in public, turn them in, they aren’t supposed to be smoking in public and they will be fined.
So, I say, “Vote No On Prohibition, it’s never worked, let’s try something different.”
Jeremiah Emmerson is a cannabis activist, aspiring entrepreneur, and fisherman in Homer, Alaska.