Mathieu Plourde

Alaska Cities Hope to Loosen Cannabis Business Buffer Zones

Two cities in Alaska have asked the state to revisit its policies on buffer zones for cannabis businesses.

Sitka and Petersburg, both in the southeastern portion of the state, hope that the state will give them more leeway in determining how far marijuana businesses have to be from certain locations.

Under current Alaska law, such businesses must be located at least 500 feet from schools, churches, correctional facilities, and recreational and youth centers. In small communities, including Petersburg and Sitka, such restrictions eliminate large swaths of the city center.

“There really are only a few slivers of land where someone’s going to be able to have a business. … It’s going to naturally restrict the industry,” said Emily Deach, the borough clerk of Skagway, another small town.

Petersburg borough manager Stephen Giesbrecht said that the current law leaves just one building available for a marijuana business in the city’s downtown.

“That’s not ideal for tourists who come in on a tour boat,” he said.

Although Alaskan cities can institute stricter rules on their own, such as banning marijuana businesses outright, they cannot unilaterally loosen rules.

Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office Director Cynthia Franklin said that the Sitka and Petersburg requests are unlikely to effect change in the near future: “It seems unlikely to me at this point that the board will revisit this right now.”

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