Bethel City Council Changes Marijuana Store Protests To Conditional Protests

Nov 13, 2019

The proposed store for Kusko Kush sits on 3rd Avenue between the Long House Hotel and Sammy's Market. Store owners Naim Shabani and Jared Karr built the store on land they are currently leasing from the City of Bethel.
Credit Greg Kim / KYUK

The Bethel City Council has backtracked on previous decisions to block two marijuana stores from opening. On Nov. 12, council changed its protests of licenses for both Kusko Kush and Alaskan Grown Cannabis to conditional protests. Now, if the marijuana stores can follow city and state fire marshal codes, they will be allowed to open. 

Kusko Kush has one more hurdle to clear: the business has to convince the City of Bethel to make its first property sale in over 11 years. The store’s owners have been leasing land from the city since April, but the city said it can’t lease property to a marijuana store since marijuana sales are illegal under federal law. Kusko Kush threatened to sue, and now the council is considering selling the land to the store, with a measure already introduced to do so. 

Last night, two members of the public spoke against the sale. First was Long House Hotel Manager Don Black.

“This sale, along with any sale, should follow the bidding process as already established by the City of Bethel,” Black said.

He said that the sale of the land without competitive bidding would be unfair. The property in question is right next to the Long House Hotel. Black also said that because the original terms of the lease between the city and Kusko Kush require the tenant to observe all state and federal laws, it actually prohibited a marijuana store. But a month after the original lease was signed, Acting City Manager Bill Howell signed an addendum stating that the City of Bethel understood and agreed that the land would be used for marijuana sales. 

Former council member Leif Albertson also spoke against the sale. He warned that the city gives up a lot of flexibility by selling land.

“There is a dearth of land in town,” Albertson said. “When we sell land, we don’t get it back.”

The council is due to make a final decision on the land sale on Dec. 3, with another opportunity for public comment.