(Seth A. McConnell, Denver Post file)

Fairbanks groups on a mission to stop marijuana commercialization

FAIRBANKS, Alaska –As the Fairbanks North Star Borough continues to receive marijuana permit applications, a number of groups are working to keep the businesses out of the borough.

A Salcha man has launched an initiative to get a question on the local ballot asking voters to stop marijuana commercialization, and a strip mall condominium association has declared pot shops prohibited under its rules, The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported.

Borough Clerk Nanci Ashford-Bingham said she received the voter initiative application from Jim Ostlind recently. The application is pending her review. If Ostlind’s application is approved, he will have until July 8 to gather at least 2,570 signatures in order to get a question on the Oct. 4 municipal ballot.

“I do honestly believe that a marijuana industry is not good for Fairbanks. I do believe a lot of people in this town feel the way that I do,” Ostlind said. “The people have the right to choose what kind of community they want to live in.”

Communities have the option to ban marijuana commerce under state law. Delta Junction approved a ban in February.

The borough has issued more than 40 land use permits for marijuana businesses so far, and six applications are pending. Most permits are for cultivation, though 11 are for marijuana stores.

Local land use permits are contingent on the state granting licenses for the businesses. The state Marijuana Control Board is expected to begin issuing licenses for cultivation facilities on June 9.

In a more specific instance of pushback against legal marijuana, the River Mall Condominium Association met last week after finding a smoke shop plans to expand to sell marijuana. Philip Clark, president of the condo association, said that won’t be happening because the association says businesses must comply with local, state and federal laws.

“They are afraid that it will bring in a much higher number of customers than the parking lot can handle, and therefore will exclude customers of other businesses. That is their primary concern,” said Van Lawrence, an attorney representing the smoke shop. “My client is looking at ways to address the concerns of the association.”

Ostlind said that just because people voted for the 2014 statewide ballot measure decriminalizing marijuana doesn’t mean they think marijuana should be commercialized.

“Now we are going to have stores all over town,” Ostlind said. “We are going to have it growing all over town. We are going to have all of these businesses as if it is just an ordinary thing like going out and getting a six pack of beer.”