Marijuana store Kusko Kush cleared its final major hurdle with the city of Bethel. On Jan. 9, the city’s Planning Commission approved a conditional use permit for Kusko Kush, owned by Essenkay LLC.
For the past few months, Essenkay has been embroiled in a dispute with the city over the plot of land the marijuana store occupies. Last month, the Bethel City Council decided to sell the company the land it was leasing. Now, after obtaining site control and a conditional use permit, Kusko Kush will only need to pass a few final state inspections to open.
Before approving the conditional use permit, some members of the Planning Commission, including chair Kathy Hanson, had questions about the marijuana store.
“One of the concerns that people have is that people that are underage, it’ll be easy for them to get marijuana products from people that are making legitimate purchases,” Hanson said. “So essentially, we end up with a bootlegging situation.”
“We can’t solve that,” said Kusko Kush owner Jared Karr. “We cannot prevent somebody from purchasing our product and going to AC and handing it out for free.”
Another planning commission member Scott Campbell, asked Karr what he would do if a village asked the store not to sell to anybody from their village. Karr said he understood Campbell’s concern, but he also doesn’t believe marijuana will cause that many problems.
“I used to be a police officer,” Karr said. “And I’ve arrested hundreds and hundreds of people. And I have wracked and wracked and wracked my brain to try to think of one time where I’ve arrested someone where they’ve created a victim and they’ve been smoking marijuana. And I haven’t found one yet.”
For the rest of the meeting, the Planning Commission looked at issues like parking, zoning, reasonable access to water and sewer. Based on these criteria, Planning Director Ted Meyer said the store should be approved and that Bethel voters had decided marijuana sales were legal.
Ultimately, the Planning Commission unanimously approved the conditional use permit for Kusko Kush. Owner Jared Karr says he hopes to open the store in March. By then, Kusko Kush will likely be the second marijuana store to open in Bethel. The first, ALASKAbuds, received all its licenses and permits several months ago, but has yet to open.
Correction: An earlier version of this story reported Bethel's Planning Commission board member Lorin Bradbury asked Kusko Kush owner Jared Karr what he would do if a village asked the marijuana store not to sell to anybody from their village. Actually, it was another board member, Scott Campbell, who asked the question.