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Dozens Turnout to Testify Against Homer Pot Prohibition Ordinance

By Daysha Eaton

It was standing room only at the start of Monday evening’s Homer City Council meeting where dozens of people showed up to testify about an ordinance that would ban all commercial cannabis activity in Homer. Most who testified were against the ordinance introduced by Homer City Council Members Heath Smith and Gus Van Dyke.

Some, like longtime resident, Misty Van Hooser, argued against it for economic reasons.

“Opting out would prevent future tourism in Homer. Tourism is down and always kind of up and down in Homer as I’ve witnessed and I think that by adding a safe place for people to go, that’s reasonable, well regulated – [it] would offer potential increase in tourism that we could desperately use,” said Van Hooser. 

Others were more philosophical, like, water taxi businessman, Mako Haggerty, who said he’s happy he can be more open about his recreational marijuana use.

“I got a couple of buds at home. I’ll probably save it for a special occasion. It’s not like I’m a chronic user or anything like that. But, I can talk about it now. Two years ago, I couldn’t even talk about it. So, that’s what I call progress. And what I call this ordinance that’s before you now, I call it retrograde,” said Haggerty.

Credit By Daysha Eaton

David Harris said the ordinance was a slap in the face to voters and if passed would push marijuana use back into the shadows.

“If you ban marijuana, all you’re going to do is increase increase black market sales,” said Harris.

And yet others were against the prohibition ordinance because they said it would give those who use pot for medical reasons a legal way to get it. Brandon Head was one of them.

“Three years ago, I was diagnosed with a rare form of multiple sclerosis. I wouldn’t be able to be in this room right now if it wasn’t for medical marijuana but there’s no accessibility, there’s no place, there’s no equal access, there’s no safety, there’s no testing,” said Head.

The handful of people who supported the prohibition ordinance argued allowing commercial cannabis to proceed in Homer would increase crime. Roberta Highland said that concerns her.

“It’s a cash only business now because you cannot put the money in the bank legally. So, there is going to be, I think, anyhow – this is guessing, that there’s going to be cash, lots of cash, on properties and it is going to probably increase robberies,” said Highland.

Others supported the cannabis prohibition because they said they were worried that the social problems that they believe go along with smoking pot could overwhelm local social services and harm children. In the end, the Council voted 4 to 2 in favor of introducing the ordinance. Council Members Catriona Reynolds and David Lewis were the only no votes.

The City Council also took another look at a marijuana zoning ordinance that was introduced at their last meeting. Council member Lewis presented a substitution ordinance that passed 4 to 2, with Council Members Heath Smith and Bryan Zak the only no votes. Council Member Lewis’ substitution allowed for rural residential cannabis cultivation.

“For up to 500-foot grow area, building that you could commercially grow within all of the restriction[s] plus the 50-foot buffer and the darkness lights that don’t interfere with viewing the sky,” said Lewis.

In addition, the Council revisited an ordinance addressing where people drive on the beach. Council Member Reynolds made an amendment to the original ordinance changing the boundary of the protected beach area and it passed with unanimous support.

“When you drive onto the beach, Bishop’s Beach, you will be able to drive to the West, which is to the right and parking there like, directly in front of the parking lot, or to the right or driving further that way towards Anchor Point, but you will not be able to drive to the left. And actually, to the left there all the way around the Spit until the other zone there which is zone 1, which is over in front of Kachemak Drive,” said Reynolds.

However, at the last minute, Council Member Lewis requested that the Beach ordinance be reconsidered at the next meeting.

In addition, the Council heard final recommendations from the Sustainable Animal Control Board. They were also notified by city attorneys that the city is being sued by Clear Creek Cat Rescue.

There will be opportunity for further public testimony on the ordinance banning all commercial cannabis activity in Homer and the marijuana zoning ordinance at the next regular meeting of the Homer City Council on Feb 22nd.

Daysha Eaton holds a B.A. from Evergreen State College, and a M.A. from the University of Southern California. Daysha got her start in radio at Seattle public radio stations, KPLU and KUOW. Before coming to KBBI, she was the News Director at KYUK in Bethel. She has also worked as the Southcentral Reporter for KSKA in Anchorage.
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