PALMER — The Mat-Su Borough Assembly debated the reconsideration of a limited marijuana cultivation license near Shaw Elementary on Tuesday.
The motion to reconsider the Alaska Marijuana Control Board’s decision to issue a license to Matthew Shelton and Thomas Dicus who own Mr. Happy Farms LLC came under scrutiny from residents concerned that the location of the cultivation facility was too close to the school. In a letter from former AMCO Director Erika McConnell to Mr. Happy Farms, McConnell said that residents claimed the facility violated North Lakes Community Council covenants. Assemblywoman Tam Boeve led the discussion by questioning the measurement of 500 feet, the distance required by law from the public entrance of the cultivation facility from the school property.
“If you don’t like the fact that this is adjacent to school property, I think this is a poor way to approach it,” Boeve said.
The assembly discussed the difficulty of dealing with these situations without zoning codes for borough neighborhoods. The resolution reads that the state and borough adopted the public policy of limiting the locations of marijuana establishments so that they are not located near school buildings and that the borough was concerned this would violate federal law. However, the measurement of 500 feet from Mr. Happy Farms to a pedestrian pathway was called into question.
“We certainly still have an interest in the state appropriately enforcing its own regulations and in particular when it applies in proximity to borough assets,” Assemblyman Jesse Sumner said.
Sumner argued that the definition of a pedestrian pathway was vague and said that the assembly should consider requirements for a physical barrier.
“AMCO made the correct decision in allowing this because it is in fact further away than 500 feet from the entrance of the building. This isn’t in our wheelhouse to begin with because we don’t have any rules and regulations regarded to cultivation facilities. So it defaults to the Marijuana Control Board,” Assemblyman Dan Mayfield said.
Borough Attorney Nick Spiropolous analyzed the statutes in code and noted that the applicants legal council believed that the distance to a pedestrian pathway meant the route through a right of way, not the straight line between the two. Assemblyman Jim Sykes noted that the situation had come before the assembly in a similar fashion before.
“If you take a look at the terrain, I don’t think you’re going to see too many school kids going across this terrain. There’s a couple of wetlands in between the marijuana facility and the school and I just think it’s ridiculous for you to think that this is going to be used by children and even if it were, the distance from the facility to the school is farther than what the law requires and I just don’t see the point of passing a resolution because we think the state law is wrong,” Sykes said.
The vote to reconsider the license failed with only Sumner and George McKee voting in support.