Bethel City Council protested two marijuana stores Tuesday night. But to get there, council had to re-vote on one protest, which could still be lifted if the store came into zoning compliance. The other protest may bring a lawsuit.
First up was Alaskan Grown Cannabis, a proposed store next to Q2 on Chief Eddie Hoffman Highway. There was some confusion. In the initial vote, Cecelia "Cece" Franko voted not to protest the store. City Clerk Lori Strickler and Acting Mayor Perry Barr then paused the meeting and took Franko into the hallway. When she returned, Franko motioned for a re-vote.
“I would just like to reconsider the vote on this resolution item in the nature of following Bethel Municipal Code,” Franko explained.
Strickler explained after the meeting that Alaskan Grown Cannabis is out of compliance with the city’s zoning regulations. The city planned to issue a conditional protest that would go away if the store becomes compliant. Franko was unaware of this plan at first, and changed her vote to support the conditional protest.
Next came Kusko Kush, a proposed marijuana store on city property along 3rd Avenue. Acting City Manager Bill Howell said that a marijuana store on city land would violate federal law. However, Kusko Kush owner Jared Karr said that the intent of the business was never a secret.
“Before this lease was even voted on, the city administration had knowledge that our intent was to open a marijuana retail store,” Karr said.
Karr said that he spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on the store based on the agreement with the city. Kusko Kush had built the building for the store themselves. Kusko Kush has provided the city three options: lease the property, sell the property, or pay damages of $16.5 million, their estimated profits of a marijuana store over a 15 year lease period.
Howell says that the city and Kusko Kush will meet on Oct. 16 to discuss a solution.
Ultimately, the council unanimously voted to protest both Alaskan Grown Cannabis and Kusko Kush.