Small marijuana growers in the valley get setback rule exemption

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PALMER, Alaska (KTUU) - After a lengthy public hearing the Mat-Su Borough Assembly voted to exempt small marijuana cultivators from a rule aimed at keeping them out of small neighborhoods.

The change was an amendment from assembly member Jim Sykes to general standards for the industry. The borough planning department had established a minimum distance requirement of 100 feet from a facility to a property line or 50 feet from a public right away.

The setback rule put small lots out of the running as an option for those seeking to sell cannabis on a smaller scale. “We need you to give this industry a chance to show you what we can do instead of you telling us what we can’t,” said Sara Williams who spoke as the owner of a marijuana consulting company but is also Chair of the Marijuana Advisory Committee.

Close to two dozen others spoke in favor of exempting facilities with less than 500 square feet from the setback rules. “It was certainly an option to modify it, it just wasn’t,” said borough Development Services Manager Alex Strawn to the assembly.

He explained that with limited established residential zoning in the borough the setbacks were a way or excluding small neighborhoods. Some testifying argued people are already growing crops in neighborhoods in the black market.

The main ordinance closed a loophole that allowed a marijuana cultivator in Talkeetna to open for business without a conditional use permit. The Talkeetna Herb Company was exempt because the town falls into a special land use district that doesn’t address marijuana businesses.

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