(Creative Commons photo by Brett Levin)

(Creative Commons photo by Brett Levin)

Following about an hour of public comment, the Ketchikan City Council voted unanimously Monday to reconsider its Dec. 3 vote to ban commercial marijuana within city limits, but that doesn’t mean the Council won’t eventually ban a retail pot industry.

The vast majority of people who spoke during public comment were in favor of allowing commercial marijuana in Ketchikan. Several talked about the benefits of medical marijuana; others said they were disappointed that the Council went against the will of voters, who chose last year to legalize marijuana.

Keith Smith says he doesn’t use pot now, but did when he was in junior high. He says it was easier to get than alcohol, because alcohol was legal and regulated. Criminal dealers sold him pot, he says, along with worse substances.

“I think that you have the chance to do a service to public safety by permanently removing marijuana from the control of the criminal class.”

Spencer Strassburg, who owns a local business that offers marijuana paraphernalia, said the goal of some Council members to keep out edible and concentrated marijuana products is not reasonable. He brought a paper bag containing various products that he collected in Ketchikan. The first thing he pulled out was some butter infused with THC: the active ingredient in pot.

“Try that. This is what you get here on our streets. This is part of an edible, right? We can make anything we want with that. I already ate the brownies, sorry. How about this one – these are some kind of weed pills. I wouldn’t eat these. You know why? They remind me of some kind of pharmaceuticals. I’m as scared of pharmaceuticals as you guys are of marijuana.”

Strassburg also pulled out what he said was “dab,” another concentrated cannabis product, along with other items. He says that when the Council claims it doesn’t want edibles and concentrates in Ketchikan, what it’s really saying is that it doesn’t want responsible, regulated edibles and concentrates.

Overall, 12 people spoke during public comment. Only one was in favor of banning commercial marijuana sales.

After the Council voted to reconsider, which brought the original motion back to the table, Council Member Julie Isom said she meant it when she voted to ban. However, she says she changed her mind when she heard from someone who needs marijuana to alleviate a medical condition, and can’t get it legally.

Council Member Dick Coose, who previously questioned whether voters were correct when they opted to legalize marijuana, said he hasn’t changed his mind about whether to ban sales in the city. He pointed to a report he found on Colorado, where pot has been legalized.

“Use by the kids have gone up, accidents in cars have gone up, you name it, right down the list. That report shows where that’s happened in Colorado since it was legalized.”

Coose says he’d be OK with allowing some kind of legal distribution for people with a real medical need, but he doesn’t want commercial pot available for recreational purposes.

Council Member Bob Sivertsen made the motion to defer. He says it’s prudent to wait until the State of Alaska has finished its regulations for a marijuana industry before deciding whether to ban sales in the City of Ketchikan.

The Council voted 4-3 to delay a final decision until March. Council Members Judy Zenge, KJ Harris and Isom voted against the delay.

Later, City Attorney Mitch Seaver pointed out that the state will start accepting marijuana business license applications in late February. He told the Council that he would try to get more information about whether the city must have its own local option decision made before that time frame.