Petersburg is asking the state to relax limitations on where marijuana businesses can open their doors this year. Petersburg’s assembly approved a resolution Monday asking for a smaller setback for pot businesses.

New state regulations say a marijuana business must be at least 500 feet from a school, youth center, church or jail, which would put most of downtown Petersburg off limits.

Petersburg’s assembly considered a resolution saying the 500 foot setback severely reduces the ability of a licensed marijuana business to exist in the retail business district in downtown Petersburg. The resolution asks for the state to change the setback to 200 feet.

Assembly member Jeigh Stanton Gregor said he was not really optimistic the state would change the regulation. “However for lots of municipalities it poses a business challenge,” Stanton Gregor said. “It’s free market. Capitalist society we live in and for this particular industry that 500 foot setback is more restrictive than alcohol for instance and I think it would give beyond Petersburg other local communities broader scope to do business.”
Stanton Gregor thought it couldn’t hurt to ask. The vote was 6-0 in favor of that resolution, which will be sent to the state.

The relaxed setback idea has been proposed in Sitka and it was one recommendation that came out of Petersburg’s marijuana regulation advisory committee. That committee met several times since it formed last March. However the committee’s chair, Stanton Gregor, told the assembly that they’ve been unable to come up with other recommendations about the new state regulations or a local ordinance.

“At the December 2015 meeting the majority of committee members had either not read the state regulations at all or had very little working knowledge of them,” he said. “Therefore the committee is unable to provide clear and or useful recommendations to the assembly at this time. It is my opinion that the assembly may need to address this issue on their own as the committee thus far ineffective.”

The assembly agreed to have staff draft an ordinance for local marijuana businesses. Borough manager Steve Giesbrecht thought it could take some time for staff to draft an ordinance and check it with the borough’s attorney. Local governments can prohibit pot businesses outright, restrict the number of licensed businesses, or otherwise regulate the location and hours of operation. A local ordinance could also establish a tax on pot. The state anticipates it could be accepting license applications for pot cafes and growers online next month.