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New Local Law Bans Pot Shops In Unalaska

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This week city leaders passed a local ban on commercial marijuana businesses in Unalaska.

It's now official that no retail cannabis stores are allowed to open on the island, regardless if the state's marijuana board grants someone a business license to do so.

On Tuesday, a second reading of the ban ordinance - like the first reading - garnered a vote of three to three. The vote mirrored the viewpoints of the community at large; at recent public forums, opinions were evenly split among those for and against allowing retail pot stores.

Council members Leclere, Tungul and Gregory voted against the ban and members Johnson, Kelty and Rowland voted in favor. As is protocol, in cases of tie votes among council members, the mayor casts the deciding vote. Marquardt voted in favor of the ban, which goes into effect immediately.

Residents who want a retail marijuana store to open in Unalaska have vowed to initiate a ballot measure in an effort to overrule the council's ban.

In the discussion leading up to the vote, council member Roger Rowland apologized for remarks he made at the Jan. 26 council meeting that upset many community members.

"I'd like to clarify a couple things I said a couple of weeks ago. To start with, I was wrong when I said I disagree with people that say they voted for the legalization of marijuana. When I said that, I left out two words - commercial and establishment," Rowland said. "I meant to say, I disagree with people that say they voted for the legalization of commercial marijuana establishments. And I apologize for misspeaking that way."

The issue has been one of the most divisive topics in recent memory, and the mayor commended the community for keeping discussions civil.

"What I really appreciate about this community is the ability to take an issue like this, that people feel strongly about on either side, and sit down in a room with each other and discuss it courteously and respectfully," Marquardt said. "The community has done this over and over again. And there are a lot of communities that are out there absolutely shredding themselves over this issue. And I'm so grateful that this community is not one of the doing that, regardless of how strongly people feel about the issue."

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