Anchorage Is Trying To Opt Out Of Cannabis Sales… Bad Idea.

Marijuana tax money for Michigan
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On Tuesday, residents of Anchorage, Alaska will get a chance to testify on whether or not the Anchorage Assembly should vote to ban commercial cannabis facilities in the city. Anchorage is the largest city in Alaska, with a population of about 300,000.

The ordinance, if approved by the assembly, would allow the city to “opt out” of Ballot Measure 2, essentially banning commercial shops or cultivation sites in or around Anchorage.

The ordinance was introduced by Eagle River Assembly member Amy Demboski, who has claimed that she would like the city to adopt a “wait-and-see” approach. She believes that the municipality should take its time and watch what comes out of the nine-month rulemaking process which begins in February 2015.

For many in the community that supported Ballot Measure 2, however, this “wait and see” approach is too much, and too soon.

“When you have a community supporting the initiative and then just a week or two later you have a single Assembly member asking (to) ban it without doing any work beforehand, that sets off alarm bells, particularly in Anchorage,” said Taylor Bickford, spokesman with the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in Alaska.

Bickford also claims that if the ban is approved, it does little in terms of actual policy. If anything, a ban would give Anchorage less authority and ability to offer input in the rule-making process. Basically, Anchorage would lose the opportunity to be a leader in crafting cannabis laws by opting out so soon.

“It’s just so early. Most people recognize that it doesn’t make a whole lot of practical sense for a community to issue a ban before the rules are written,” Bickford said. “Nothing is going to happen between now and then. It’s really just a political stunt.”

Local municipalities can and should be able to opt out of allowing the sale of legalized cannabis. It makes sense that small communities should be allowed to vote on whether or not to allow retail sales in their local area. However, for large population centers such as Anchorage, this may not be such a great idea. To find out why, we can take a look at the legalization experiment that has already unfolded in Colorado.

In particular, we can look to Colorado Springs, who had a similar knee-jerk reaction to ban recreational sales of cannabis before legislation was even set in stone. As a result, Colorado Springs remains a practical black-hole for retail sales in the State, forcing residents to nearby markets in Pueblo and Denver. This creates a larger black market in the city, as local residents without reliable long-distance transportation have nowhere to go shopping legally. Considering that the recreational market in Colorado is generating as much as $8 million per month in tax revenue for the State, it’s obvious that Colorado Springs is also missing out on large amounts of cash that could be used to improve schools and roads.

Colorado Springs will likely vote to permit recreational sales sometime next year, ending the temporary ban. If this happens, all that will have been accomplished by the city’s choice to initially “opt-out” is a significant loss in tax revenue, a larger black market compared to the rest of the state, and an immature market. The industry in the city will then have to play catch-up to reach the scale and quality of the market in nearby municipalities. Citizens of Colorado Springs are largely unhappy about these circumstances; we get calls to our office every week from people in Colorado Springs that are upset they can’t find a recreational store near them on Leafbuyer.

When considering the unfortunate results of the Colorado Springs retail sales ban, does Anchorage really want to “opt out” before the legislation has even been fully laid out?

the rules are written,” Bickford said. “Nothing is going to happen between now and then. It’s really just a political stunt.”
Local municipalities can and should be able to opt out of allowing sale of legalized cannabis. It makes sense that small communities should be allowed to vote on whether or not to allow retail sales in their local area. However, for large population-centers such as Anchorage, this may not be such a great idea. To find out why, we can take a look at the legalization experiment that has already unfolded in Colorado.
In particular, we can look to Colorado Springs, who had a similar knee-jerk reaction to ban recreational sales of cannabis before legislation was even set in stone. As a result, Colorado Springs remains a practical black-hole for retail sales in the State, forcing residents to nearby markets in Pueblo and Denver. This creates a larger black market in the city, as local residents without reliable long-distance transportation have nowhere to go to shop legally. Considering that the recreational market in Colorado is generating as much as $8 million per month in tax revenue for the State, it’s obvious that Colorado Springs is also missing out on large amounts of cash that could be used to improve schools and roads.
Colorado Springs will likely vote to permit recreational sales sometime next year, ending the temporary ban. If this happens, all that will have been accomplished by the city’s choice to initially “opt-out” is a significant loss in tax revenue, a larger black market compared to the rest of the state, and an immature market. The industry in the city will then have to play catch-up to reach the scale and quality of the market in nearby municipalities. Citizens of Colorado Springs are largely unhappy about these circumstances; we get calls to our office every week from people in Colorado Springs that are upset they can’t find a recreational store near them on Leafbuyer.
When considering the unfortunate results of the Colorado Springs retail sales ban, does Anchorage really want to “opt out” before the legislation has even been fully laid out?