Bethel City Council To Decide On Sale Of Land To Marijuana Store

Dec 3, 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 will determine the fate of a piece of property that the city owns on 3rd Avenue, which comes with big consequences. If they sell the land, that could allow the marijuana store Kusko Kush to open. If they don’t sell the land, the city may face a lawsuit.

The city began its relationship with Kusko Kush in April, when it signed a 15-year lease agreement with its parent company, Essenkay, LLC, for the property. But then in August, the city said that it could no longer lease land to Kusko Kush because selling marijuana is federally illegal. 

The business owners, Jared Karr and Naim Shabani, threatened to sue, claiming that their future lost profits, plus what they have already invested in the store, could amount to as much as $16 million in damages. 

Former council member Leif Albertson has said that the council didn’t know the land would be used for a marijuana store at the time, and the original lease requires the tenant to observe federal law. However, a month after the original lease was signed, Acting City Manager Bill Howell signed an addendum that made it clear that the City of Bethel understood that the land would be used for marijuana sales.  

The proposed sale to Kusko Kush has already been introduced. The price asked would be $173,000, based on a 2016 appraisal. At the last regular council meeting, a few community members raised concerns during the “People to be Heard” part of the agenda. Among other things, they said that if the city was going to sell land, it should follow the public, competitive bidding process.

At a meeting beginning at 6:30 p.m. on Dec. 3, Bethel City Council will decide whether ownership of this land will change hands.