Matanuska-Susitna Borough

Small Marijuana Grow Businesses Get Exemption

Mat-Su | Patty Sullivan | Friday, January 13, 2017

Small commercial marijuana growers who will operate their businesses in a room less than 500 square feet  (or the size of a two-car garage) are now exempt from a Borough commercial marijuana law that requires 100 foot setbacks from property lines and 50 foot setbacks from rights of way. Those rules, however, still apply for the larger standard cultivation facilities. The Matanuska-Susitna Borough Assembly approved the exemption for these smaller so called limited State-licensed cultivation facilities Tuesday night.

Nearly two dozen cannabis entrepreneurs testified in a public hearing.

Also approved Tuesday was the removal from code of Borough setbacks that were duplicative with State setbacks, (ie. setbacks from churches, youth centers, community correctional centers). The Borough yields to the State rules on those.

Assembly Member Jim Sykes introduced an amendment for what’s called “limited cultivation facilities.” 

“It aligns with the State law. It has been passed by both the MAC, (Marijuana Advisory Committee), and Planning Commission. It allows for enforcement by the State. … it allows small businesses the opportunity to have the small marijuana grow…. It’s an exemption from the current code and part of the process we’re trying to implement. It really doesn’t have significant adverse impacts,” Assembly Member Sykes said.

Another amendment fixed a loophole where the Borough marijuana standards did not apply if a business were located in a “special land use district” as occurred for a marijuana business in Talkeetna. The Talkeetna Herb Company, a standard cultivation facility, will be allowed to operate without a conditional use permit. But after this change, the standards will now apply to all new marijuana related businesses wishing to operate within a Special Land Use District.

The Borough passed an amendment introduced by Assembly Member Randall Kowalke that grants pre-existing status to any marijuana related facility that is located within Special Land Use Districts and have filed with the State for a marijuana related license. This amendment helped The High Expedition, a retail company that is trying to open on Main Street in Talkeenta in February.

“This amendment was made primarily because, in an episode of “The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight” this issue of the “special use district” was left out of the original ordinance…which I worked on hard and long with the Planning Commission and other folks in developing. Subsequently the applicant …could not turn in the application because there was no vehicle to accept it.  I’m talking about essentially one business and the purpose of this is to move that building out of this discussion. If Talkeetna through its community council has a new ordinance for the Assembly and Planning Commission to look at, so be it, we’ll look at that. This is to clear up a comedy of errors driven by the Borough itself,” Kowalke said.

Marijuana businesses, both retail and cultivation, must by licensed by the State and get a conditional use permit from the Borough before opening their doors unless they fall under approved exemptions. Here is a list of cannabis companies that will not be required to get a permit with the Borough to operate in the Mat-Su.

• The Naked Herbalist, in Willow, a limited cultivation facility

• Alaska Precision, in Willow, a limited cuitivation facility

• Green Degree, a limited cultivation facility on Knik Goose-Bay Road, also applying for a retail license

• Talkeetna Herb Company near Talkeetna, a standard cultivation facility, is licensed by the State and is already eligible to operate.

• Art’s Alaska Plantation, a limited cultivation facility in Willow


Upcoming applications will be reviewed by the Planning Commission in March include:

• High Tide Farms, a proposed 5,000-square foot cultivation facility located on Snuffy’s Road off Schrock Road near Wasilla

• Green Degree, the retail side of their limited cultivation facility

• Bad Gramm3r, on Bogard Roard, a retail facility

For more information contact Alex Strawn, Development Services Manager for the Borough at 861-7854.