Anchorage Assembly on Pot (candidates thoughts on weed)

Anchorage Assembly
Amy Demboski
There isn’t a lot of talk about the upcoming Municipality of Anchorage elections right now, but in a few short weeks, voters will head to the polls to vote on bonds, referendums, and, yes, Anchorage assembly representatives. This cycle’s election is on Tuesday, April 4, 2017; and will be the first for the newly created marijuana industry in Anchorage. For the first time in history, voters will take into consideration what a candidate thinks about marijuana and the marijuana industry as a whole.

With that as our backdrop, we reached out to each candidate running for an assembly seat in Anchorage and asked them their thoughts on cannabis. Here are the questions we asked them:
Cannabis Classic

  1. The voters voted to regulation marijuana like alcohol. What does that mean to you?
  2. There are public places within the community that allow alcohol consumption. What are your thoughts about marijuana consumption at specific locations and designated areas?
  3. What positives, what benefits, if any, do you think the local cannabis industry will create?
  4. In 5-years, what do you hope the marijuana industry will look like?
  5. What are your biggest fears, if any, of the local cannabis industry?
  6. Overall, do you think the cannabis industry will be beneficial or detrimental to the community?
There are 20 candidates running for a total of six assembly seats. Of the 20 candidates, four of them responded – Chris Constant, Patrick Donnelly, David Nees, and Felix Rivera. Pete Petersen also responded, but for whatever reason, his answers got lost in cyber space. Of the candidates that did respond, their comments are below in numerical district order.

Christopher Constant
Assembly District 1 – Seat B – Downtown Anchorage
Patrick Donnelly
Assembly District 2 – Seat C – Chugiak/Eagle River
David Nees
Assembly District 3 – Seat E – West Anchorage
Felix Rivera
Assembly District 4 – Seat G – Midtown Anchorage

Q: The voters voted to regulation marijuana like alcohol. What does that mean to you?
CC: That the voters legalized marijuana was landmark. The implementation of the legalization hasn’t been very efficient though. The idea of regulating like alcohol isn’t exactly possible as members of the MCB and the public soon realized. I am glad that we are getting licensed facilities operating. It has been a slow roll out. Hopefully things are more efficient from here out.

PD: A step in the right direction on a social level but the conflict with federal law makes it a complicated can of worms without a good solution.
 
DN: The regulation and policing, and licensing should be as similar to alcohol as possible.

FR: I, along with a majority of Alaskans, voted to bring marijuana out of the black market and to regulate this industry like alcohol. In so doing, voters gave instruction to the State of Alaska to begin the process of regulating the industry. In the spirit of the proposition, the industry regulations crafted were meant to mirror those currently placed on the alcohol industry.

Q: There are public places within the community that allow alcohol consumption. What are your thoughts about marijuana consumption at specific locations and designated areas?
CC: I think it is well past time for the MCB to authorize and local governments to approve a legal location for the consumption of marijuana products.  The disconnect is that if there aren’t places for the public to consume, then people will consumer their legally purchased products wherever they feel like. It’s better to allow consumption in legal locations than to see it on the streets of our downtown.

PD: It would seem that smoking in social settings should be acceptable. Would it be benign? I don’t know. Depends on individual responsibility. Marijuana inhibits decision making. I’ve seen people make bad choices while baked. Usually it was regarding minor things in more private settings. What happens when you do this in public? All that said, it would be nice if folks could go to a concert and smoke without risking jail.
 
DN: The only difference is Alcohol unlike tobacco and Marijuana smoke is not airborne, so control of smoke is an issue. The intent to regulate like alcohol is pretty clear, unlike Mr. Dunbar and Mr. Traini, I feel the municipality adding the new Military discount prohibition is violating that “regulate like alcohol” intent.

FR: I believe there should be public spaces where users can safely consume marijuana. Otherwise, we are opening the door to further back door and black market type meeting places. This especially hurts any potential tourism benefit marijuana would have likely brought to Alaska.

Q: What positives, what benefits, if any, do you think the local cannabis industry will create?
CC: Jobs. Jobs. Jobs.  This is a new industry–a rare thing to witness in a person’s lifetime.  The thing I find most positive is the potential for increased economic participation in our neighborhood businesses.

PD: A legitimate market might make the black market less lucrative and result is less criminal activity. One more industry gives people work, circulates money, etc.
 
DN: Revenue will move from dark economy to public.

FR: As the state faces a tough fiscal problem, we should look at all new and emerging markets as solutions, not to the entire deficit, but to building a new economy not as reliant on the oil and gas industry.

Q: In 5-years, what do you hope the marijuana industry will look like?
CC: I hope we will have a robust and deeply rooted marijuana industry where the business owners have worked with the regulators and local and state government to eliminate duplication in licensing processes. Not to suggest I don’t approve of the double license, I just think the application processes should be concurrent and not subsequent.
 
PD: Accepted and not a topic.
 
DN: Like the Colorado model.
 
FR: Because there was no groundwork in Alaska for the marijuana industry, like medicinal marijuana was for Washington and Colorado, it will take a few years for the market to stabilize, prices to settle, and regulations to be assessed for their effectiveness. In 5 years, I hope we have a stable marijuana industry in Anchorage and Alaska.

Q: What are your biggest fears, if any, of the local cannabis industry?
CC: That the regulatory climate, especially Title 21 and the building codes will make the barriers to entry so high in Anchorage that it becomes virtually impossible to open facilities.
 
PD: There are bound to be some unintended consequences. I hope things are tough through well enough in advance that consequences are small ones. The biggest fear might be this becomes a contentious, decisive issue that people waste energy fighting over.
 
DN: Public health lawsuits and federal intervention.
 
FR: Public safety is my number one concern, both for the industry itself and for those still working in the black market. We’ve seen too many drug related deaths in the last year. Also, I want to make sure that regulations for the industry don’t inhibit market growth. I will keep a close eye as these regulations continue to evolve over time.

Q: Overall, do you think the cannabis industry will be beneficial or detrimental to the community?
CC: I am certain the cannabis industry will be an asset to Anchorage’s economy and thus our community as a whole.
 
PD: Overall I believe that, if run right, the cannabis industry could be beneficial to the community.
 
DN: I think it will not be a major force either way, but I hope it will be successful as a revenue generator.
 
FR: The cannabis industry has already proven to increase tax revenues and, more importantly, bring more jobs to Anchorage. I am hopeful that the industry will develop and maintain a positive relationship with the Anchorage community.

Below is a full list of candidates, and which district they represent. Thank you to each of the candidates who responded to our questions. Having an open dialogue with our representatives is at the heart of democracy. Thank you Christopher Constant, Patrick Donnelly, David Nees, Felix Rivera, and Pete Petersen.

Election Roster
Assembly District 1 – Seat B – Downtown Anchorage
  • Christopher Constant
  • Mark Alan Martinson
  • Albert Swank Jr.
  • David Dunsmore
  • Warren West
  • Chris Cox
Assembly District 2 – Seat C – Chugiak/Eagle River
  • John Brassell
  • Gretchen Wehmhoff
  • Fred Dyson
  • Patrick Donnelly
Assembly District 3 – Seat E – West Anchorage
  • David Nees
  • Tim Steele
Assembly District 4 – Seat G – Midtown Anchorage
  • Felix Rivera
  • Marcus Sanders
  • Don Smith
  • Ron Alleva
Assembly District 5 – Seat I – East Anchorage
  • Pete Petersen
  • Don Jones
Assembly District 6 – Seat K – South Anchorage
  • Albert Fogle
  • Suzanne LaFrance
About Aaron Waters 73 Articles

Aaron is a cannabis writer living in Eagle River with his wife and two dogs, Indica and Sativa.