Contributed by Sara Williams, MBA
In this time of economic crisis, we need innovative leaders who are willing to have personal courage to support their residents who want to chase their dreams of economic freedom. The MatSu Assembly are not those leaders.
On January 10th, the Assembly heard public comment from over 25 residents who spoke against the arbitrary setbacks for marijuana establishments. One spoke in favor citing it was the best "we could come up with". Many gave stories about how the 50 feet from a public right of way and 100 feet from side and rear lot lines would negatively affect their ability to utilize their existing properties they have already invested in.
Jack Dupier's company, American Growers, which is a state approved Standard Cultivation Facility off Soapstone Rd in Palmer is out of business after a $250,000 investment because the east side of his building is 20 feet too close to the undeveloped public right of way that backs up to farmland. His facility alone was slated to provide between 5 and 10 new jobs for MatSu Valley residents.
Thomas Hannam purchased a warehouse surrounded by swampland two years ago in hopes to open a Standard Cultivation facility and was told that the $780,000 he invested and over 20 new jobs he would have created are now not going to happen because his building is too close to the neighboring lot line. In all the establishments that spoke would have provided over 100 new jobs to the Borough.
The stories continued all night it seemed, but in the end they fell on deaf ears. None of the Assembly members had the personal courage to motion to remove the setbacks even after the mayor gently urged them to do so. As the chair of the Marijuana Advisory Committee, I understand the plight Vern Halter is in to facilitate the meeting but not be able to affect real change.
The decision by Assembly members Barbara Doty, Steve Colligan, Dan Mayfield, Randall Kowalkee, Jim Sykes and George McKee further stunts the launch of the MatSu regulated cannabis industry and the jobs and tax revenue that it could generate.
The time has come to start holding our legislators to the fire for the hard choices they have to make in down economic times. Truth is, that without legal regulated cannabis products being sold in the state of Alaska and hempcrete or other cannabis created building materials being sold abroad, we only go backwards. With no new reasonable tax revenue sources, we are lost without cannabis.
At full capacity, the cannabis industry in the MatSu Valley could provide well over 1,000 new jobs and millions in tax revenue because it is more than just getting people stoned. With 50,000 uses for the cannabis plant it could revolutionize the economy of the Borough and the state of Alaska.
I challenge our Assembly members to remove the setbacks with haste. Their choice on the 10th means that it will be another six months to a year before the MatSu Valley’s regulated, tested and identification checked cannabis industry can even begin to compete with the black market and reduce access for children. I demand more personal courage of our leaders to fight for opportunities for jobs and economic development for our residents. We are growing too fast without the proper infrastructure. We need cannabis tax revenue to help fill in the holes.
Please help me hold our legislators feet to the fire on growing the economy of the MatSu Borough. Please make them accountable to their choices to not support economic development and new jobs at election time and if this behavior of our leaders infuriates you then get involved. The world is shaped by those who show up.
Ms. Williams is CEO of Phoenix Rising Inc. and a cannabis advocate. She also holds the chair position of the Marijuana Advisory Committee. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org 907-887-6130.