Home Culture Alaskans Are Asking for Looser Zoning Restrictions for Marijuana Shops

Alaskans Are Asking for Looser Zoning Restrictions for Marijuana Shops


Over the last few months we’ve seen a lot of changes to the growing marijuana industry – states with a more or less established industry like Colorado and those who are just starting out like Oregon – and things are really moving forward for Alaska who will start receiving applications for licenses next week.

That exciting news likely has future shop owners pondering over the perfect location – but the problem that some of them are running into is that a perfect location simply doesn’t exist in their compact towns.

Currently, the regulations set forth by lawmakers requires that marijuana dispensaries be located no closer than 500 feet from any and all schools, churches, correctional facilities and youth or recreational centers.

This poses a problems for some towns, specifically Petersburg and Sitka, two island cities of Southeast Alaska. The way these towns are set up, very compact to one area, leaves very few options when it comes to locations for retail cannabis shops.

“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 Skagway borough clerk Emily Deach.

Last month the Petersburg assembly voted to as the state to reduce the buffer zone – Sitka assembly voted the same the next day and the two approached the Department of Law asking for more local control – reducing the 500 foot buffer zone and allowing individual communities decide what an appropriate buffer zone is.

However, the big problem is the federal law saying controlled substances cannot be within 1,000 feet of such structures. All the states who have legalized have kept to this 1,000 foot ruling – with the exception of Alaska with this same situation in mind.

Since there is already some potential for federal interference due to this certain law, the chances of local governments getting more say is slim for now. After all, the state is already worried that 500 feet is already too loose of a restriction.

“It seems unlikely to me at this point that the board will revisit this right now,” said Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office Director Cynthia Franklin. “We’re really the first state to break into the 1,000-foot federal school zone buffer,” Franklin said. “Nobody’s done that yet. We don’t know how (the federal government will) respond to that.”

Things are sure to pan themselves out eventually – it’s going to be a long road of trial and error across the country – and what works in one state might not for another. Eventually, things will be up and running smoothly across the nation – until then, those states on the border of legalizing need to start taking notes from those who are blazing the trail!