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Council Debates Retail Cannabis; Museum of the Aleutians Board Appointment

Dec 9, 2015

Residents discuss the pros and cons of a retail cannabis store on the island.
Credit Greta Mart

The topic of commercial marijuana sales in Unalaska attracted a handful of residents to speak their minds at this week's city council meeting. As was the case during a similar work session at the Nov. 24 council meeting, there were strong opinions on both sides of the argument.

Roughly half of those who spoke up want the council to pass a resolution banning any retail marijuana stores from opening on the island. The other half called for the council to take no action. That would allow anyone to apply for a state license to open a retail store.

18-year-old Axel Rowland, son of councilmember Roger Rowland, urged the council to consider whether it was good for the community to allow retail sales.

"I have been commercially fishing since I was seven years old. I have seen marijuana and its effects on people, and I see only negative," Rowland said. "The medicinal side of marijuana, in my mind, is already satisfied. We don't need to worry about the people who want marijuana for medicinal use, because they can have it."

Ounalashka Corporation director Dennis Robinson asked the Council to allow commercial sales.

"The benefits of marijuana, the benefits that are going to be had and fully realized are not going to happen with this generation in this room. This generation is going to have to die. And the next generation is going to have to come up being a little more acceptable of it. By the third generation, we will finally realize the full benefits of marijuana, and hemp," Robinson said.

City attorney Charles Cacciola addressed some of the questions generated by the public and council members at the Nov. 24 work session. He spoke at length about the legal obstacles to transporting marijuana in commercial amounts to the island.

Councilmember LeClere requested the city host another public forum. But, LeClere said, unlike the public forum held at the PCR on Nov. 8, this new forum would be held at City Hall with no agenda or surveys, just an opportunity for residents to come in and simply tell the council what they think. Councilmember Gregory agreed, and city staff will now schedule the forum in the coming weeks.

In other council items, there was a rare tie vote last night over the appointment of resident Wayne Chinn to the Museum of the Aleutians board of directors.

Mayor Shirley Marquardt made the appointment, and it was scheduled on the consent calendar for routine council approval. Councilmember Frank Kelty opposed Chinn's appointment, saying that insufficient time was given for those interested in joining the Museum board to submit applications. He made a motion that any nomination for the vacant, public-at-large seat be postponed until the Jan. 26 council meeting.

"I think this is very important...this appointment," Kelty said via teleconference. "I think a little more time to possibly see some other applications for your consideration, as far as I'm concerned, would be appreciated."

Council members LeClere and Gregory voted with Kelty, but Mayor Marquardt disagreed.

"To me this was a really good fit and quite honestly, two weeks of open time for the board seat, I think if someone’s really interested, they would’ve put their name in during that time period," Marquardt said. "I’m concerned with not filling a seat on the Museum of the Aleutians board until Jan 26. The museum has been closed for a couple months. And there’s work that needs to be done...when I make appointments, I don't do it by who I like and who I don't like. I don’t do it by personalities. And I don’t do it by politics. I do it by who I think is going to be the best fit for the board and the job before the board."

Council members Rowland, Johnson and Tungul voted in favor of appointing Chinn, making the vote three to three. As chair, Marquardt cast the tie-breaking vote and Chinn was appointed.

KUCB will be airing an interview with Chinn on Monday.

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