Nearly two years after cannabis business went legal in Alaska, the industry is still growing in the city of Kenai.
Right now there are eight businesses either open or with plans to open, says Kenai city planner Elizabeth Appleby.
“Not all of these facilities are actually operating. Only three of the eight are fully licensed to operate. One facility has been approved pending and inspection and marijuana enforcement tracking recording compliance, or MERC, credentialing. The remaining establishments are at various stages in the state of Alaska AMCO license process.”
The different types of businesses range from limited and standard cultivation operations to manufacturing facilities and retail stores, and they’re located across a number of different zones in the city, including rural residential areas. Appleby says not all the businesses that have applied for licences have been granted one, and some have been cause for zoning changes.
“The (planning and zoning) commission has denied two facilities. One did not meet buffer requirements and one was deemed an incompatible use. That was for a standard cultivation facility in a residential zone. The code has been amended, to where this is not allowed in the land use table. A standard cultivation facility is not allowed in a residential zone any longer,” Appleby said at a recent planning and zoning commission meeting.
And in the past couple years, other businesses have popped up that are marijuana-adjacent, but don’t need the same special permits, selling oils and salves.
“Someone can open a store in the city of Kenai without a permit. At least one or two of these places are selling hemp or products that are not marijuana. Just note that they can do that. The retail (license) specifically covers the sale of marijuana, not other products that are not marijuana.”
Law enforcement hasn’t been an issue, at least at the business locations. An ongoing question around the state regarding cannabis has been about on-site consumption. The state will dive into that issue later this summer, and Appleby says in the meantime, there are other local issues that deserve some attention, like reviewing the city’s sign code, as Soldotna recently did.