Ketchikan City Council looks for ways to boost sales tax revenue from marijuana

Ketchikan City Hall
Ketchikan’s city hall on June 11, 2020. (Maria Dudzak/KRBD)

Ketchikan could soon allow double the number of marijuana stores to set up shop in town. A recent decision by the city council took the community one step closer to more retailers, in an effort to support a local grant program.

Marijuana sales fund Ketchikan’s humanitarian grant program. At a recent meeting, the city council took another step toward allowing two more marijuana shops in the city. Some members hope that will increase sales tax revenue to fund the grant program.

Council member Riley Gass introduced the motion. He said he wasn’t sure how much it would actually help, but thought it was important to explore the option.

“If one or two more people want to open up shops and invest their time and money in it, I think it’s a good idea for us to step out of the way and see what happens,” he said.

City staff projected that sales tax revenue from marijuana would add up to about $330,000 in fiscal year 2023. But a memo from Ketchikan’s city manager, Delilah Walsh, said they expect this year’s revenue to fall short — around $285,000 of the roughly $368,000 needed to fund the program at the same level as last year.

Member Jack Finnegan voted no. He said he wasn’t against the idea, but thought it was missing the root of the problem.

“I mean, even if we open up the possibility for two new retailers to open, it’s not going to happen next week,” he said. “It’s not going to generate that tax revenue right away, even if the market were to expand.”

With five members voting for it and two against it, an amendment to the code will be brought to the council at the next meeting. Council members Riley Gass, Jai Mahtani, Lallette Kistler, Mark Flora, Abby Bradberry and Janalee Gage voted in favor. Jack Finnegan was the sole vote against the motion.

Also during Thursday’s meeting, the council discussed the city’s dock vendor program. Tour businesses can bid on one of six booths to promote and sell their products on Ketchikan’s ship docks, but the council has been looking at changes. 

The council passed a motion to allow a seventh booth on berths one and three. Council member Abby Bradberry introduced it. She wants that booth to be reserved for youth groups.

I would hope, you know, every weekend or week, you know, you could designate it to a youth group or they could sign up for it and just allow them to be present and to, to fundraise,” she said. “I mean, locals can still go buy stuff from them too. I just I really wanted to focus it on youth, because we don’t have a lot of those opportunities for the youth.”

The amendment passed unanimously. 

The council also failed to pass a $10,000 minimum bid on all other vendor booths. Member Gass said some in the community were concerned that under that minimum $10,000 bid, small operations won’t be able to compete with bigger ones. 

“And I just worry that this might exacerbate that problem and not help,” he said.

The council will meet again on May 18.

Raegan Miller is a Report for America corps member for KRBD. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one. Please consider making a tax-deductible contribution at

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