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Inside the Gates: Businesses off-limits to service members

By Bonney Bowman Photojournalist: Nick Swann - 11:43 AM January 21, 2017

It may surprise you to learn, but there are some businesses in Anchorage where members of our military community are not allowed to go. The Armed Forces Disciplinary Review Board can make a business “off-limits,” making it a crime for a service member to go there.

Col. Seth Deam, staff judge advocate for the 673rd Air Base Wing, said making a business off-limits is more about protecting service members than it is damaging businesses.

“Oftentimes, what we’re IDing as the concern for our service members are practices that are actually illegal,” Deam said. “Reports of prostitution, human trafficking, drug and alcohol abuse, threats of violence, discrimination and other things of that sort.”

The disciplinary review board is currently considering adding an Anchorage business to the list. It would be the first to make the list here. The official list is not made public, but unofficially, no pot businesses are allowed.

“Regardless of whether the retail marijuana establishments are placed off-limits, it’s still illegal for our service members to purchase marijuana,” Deam explained.

Enlighten Alaska co-owner Leah Levinton said she’d heard service members weren’t allowed in her store, something she called unfortunate, but also something she’s not going to police herself.

“My job is to ensure that everyone who walks through this door has a valid ID and that they are over the age of 21, and if that is the case then they’re welcome to purchase product from my store,” Levinton said.

Her store is only legal at the state level, not the federal level. Service members are federal employees, which is why they can’t legally use marijuana, despite its potential to help with mental health issues like post-traumatic stress disorder.

“Studies have shown that cannabis has been able to heal or help or alleviate those symptoms of PTSD, so I really feel for them, their inability to come and get legal and accessible medicine for them,” Levinton said.

Deam acknowledged that it might seem contradictory that those who fight for our freedoms have theirs curtailed.

“This is a philosophical question about how much limitation we put on individual liberty of our service members,” he said.

But Deam said every base has an off-limits list, including international locations where service members could unknowingly be at risk. He said Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson’s is the shortest list he’s seen, something he credits to the Alaska lifestyle.

“I think some of that is a testament to the great community relations that Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson has with our local community,” he said.

Deam said the off-limits list is not made public because the goal is not to damage a business, so before any business is added to the list, the owner has a chance to correct the issue and work toward a solution with the disciplinary board.

KTVA 11’s Bonney Bowman can be reached via email or on Facebook and Twitter

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