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Assembly Member Criticized for ISIS Reference

Courtesy of the Kenai Peninsula Borough.

A Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly Member, Stan Welles, infuriated borough residents after he wrote a letter to a local newspaper arguing the irrelevance of marijuana revenue in the face of its social costs. Residents turned out at Tuesday’s Assembly meeting to tell Welles their thoughts on the letter’s closing, which they say, compares people involved in the marijuana industry to Islamic State terrorists.

“…what is the difference between this trade and an ISIS suicide bomber?”

That’s a question quoted from Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly Member Stan Welles’ letter published in the Peninsula Clarion newspaper on the first of the month.

His answer: “Time! The ISIS suicide bomber takes out 2 or 3 generations in a heartbeat. The drug dealer takes out multiple generations over an indefinite period of time.”

Those words made a handful of borough residents mad enough to testify at a recent borough assembly meeting. 

“Matthew Cook [of] Soldotna…I’m trying to become one of these new businesspeople. I served my country in the Persian Gulf and Somalia. How dare you…If you were 50-years-younger. We keep trying to drag down this new industry. ‘Let’s not have it go on in our borough.’ Let’s equate these people who are going to be licensed businesspeople, and not drug dealers and definitely not ISIS suicide bombers…,” said Cook.

The testimony came just as Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly members were poised to introduce an ordinance calling for a borough-wide vote on whether to ban commercial marijuana within the borough.

Voters would decide whether to ban all four marijuana license types: growers, retail stores, manufacturers and testing facilities.

Kenai Peninsula cities, including Homer and Kenai, would not be affected by the ban. Soldotna’s city council has already banned commercial marijuana through January 2018.

Many residents have said they already decided this issue during the statewide vote in 2014.

Carrie Harris of Homer also testified. She said she is a former police officer. 

“I’m going to stand before you today and tell you I’m a proud member of ISIS. And that’s hard to say because once your blood is blue, it stays blue. But, I’m going to say that today because I believe in the democratic process and in voting…,” said Harris. “To ask for another vote until you win is not democratic. That’s spitting on that flag up there when you stand up there and say, ‘I pledge of allegiance…’ and to be compared to ISIS for that…well I’m here to fight for people’s rights and protect their vote and if that makes me an ISIS member then I’m proud to be one.”

Assembly Member Stan Welles of Sterling says his letter gave a marijuana cost analysis. He argued that marijuana costs Alaskans much more money than it could possibly repay through tax revenue. Welles’ letter cited a 2012 report from the consulting firm the McDowell Group to back up his argument.

“…Extended healthcare costs, extended social welfare costs…,” said Welles.

Plus he mentioned added costs to the criminal justice system, and the costs of additional traffic accidents among other things.

“The brutality of marijuana is that it’s a very slow…the damage done by marijuana accrues very slowly over a long period of time which facilitates the spread of marijuana from generation to generation,” said Welles.

Welles says he understands how at first glance someone could be offended by the last paragraph in his letter. But, he says, he never compared anyone to Islamic State terrorists.

“The point that I’m trying to make is that the damage done by drugs is cumulative and perpetuated over an extended period of time, and if you look at the number of lives and the cost; it exceeds anything that ISIS does,” said Welles.

Although Welles lumps marijuana in with all other drugs in his letter, he stresses that he is not comparing marijuana use to the brutality of ISIS. But he says, in his opinion, the carnage the group leaves in its wake is similar to what drugs can do over time.

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