Pro-industry group fights proposition to ban pot shops on Kenai Peninsula

Jun 2, 2017

Workers trim marijuana at Greatland Ganja in Kasilof.
Credit Courtesy of Keep Cannabis Legal

Marijuana businesses across the Kenai Peninsula Borough are facing an uncertain future. Ballot Proposition 1 will go to a vote in October and would ban all pot operations within the borough that don’t fall under municipal regulations. A ballot initiative group is pushing back against the proposition by promoting the economic growth of the marijuana industry.

Keep Cannabis Legal gave a presentation to the Homer Chamber of Commerce’s Legislative Board Friday. The ballot initiative group is traveling around the peninsula to push back against Ballot Proposition 1.

Dollynda Phelps co-owns Peace Frog Botanicals, a Nikiski-based cultivation facility. She explained there are 33 license holders in the borough, and she said the marijuana industry on the peninsula would be decimated if the proposition passes.

“Thirty two of them would be lost if Proposition 1 passes in October. This would ban marijuana facilities on approximately 14,900 square miles of a 15,000-square-mile borough,” Phelps said.

The pro-industry group surveyed 26 license holders and estimates the marijuana industry will spend $3.6 million across the borough on payroll, supplies and other operational costs annually. Phelps added a significant amount of money spent to develop these businesses would be lost if they were forced to shut down.

“So the total money spent on facility development built out of the Kenai Peninsula Borough, which includes all of these things, renovation, hiring electricians, web design, advertising, web development, is almost $5 million,” she said.

If Alaska follows trends in more established markets like Colorado, Phelps said the borough could see about 200 jobs as the industry grows.

“According to the survey, new jobs created so far is 81 and additional jobs expected this year is 56,” Phelps explained.

Petitioners tried to collect enough signatures to put the proposition on the ballot in 2016, but fell short of the deadline. Now, enough borough residents have signed on to put it to a vote in October.

There are no marijuana businesses within Homer city limits currently, but two Homer residents have begun the process to operate a cultivation and retail facility in town. Those businesses would not be affected by the proposition and would be regulated by the city and state.  

But, there are a few Homer area pot businesses that may be on the chopping block. Jason Boyd operates Canaboyd, a limited cultivation facility about 15 miles outside of town. He said he would likely be unable to move within city limits after spending about $7,000 at his current location and doesn’t want to restart the process.

Boyd has no problem with the issue going to a vote, but he said the timing could be costly for business owners.

“That proposition wasn’t initialized until six, seven months after everybody was up and running,” he said. “There’s people that have $1 million investments in their businesses. Where does that money go to?”

Boyd thinks time is on his side and the proposition will fail after the industry proves it can operate safely. If Proposition 1 passes, Boyd said he’ll have time to sell a few more rounds of crops to recoup his losses.