The Ketchikan City Council agreed in a split vote Thursday to not protest two marijuana retail stores in the downtown area.
The Council reviews marijuana business license applications that have been submitted to the Alaska Marijuana Control Board for stores within city limits. The city can protest those applications for limited reasons, such as delinquent taxes.
During discussion of the application submitted by The Stoney Moose, Council Member Janalee Gage asked how the business would get its products tested for potency, which is a state requirement. There are currently no testing facilities in Ketchikan.
Co-owner Mark Woodward told the Council that state officials told him the business can send out samples for testing, as long as those samples are in secured containers and go directly from the business to a testing facility.
Gage also wondered about ventilation for part of the business where customers would be able to smoke pot on site. Woodward said they have a plan for that, too.
“We have to keep everything within the premises,” he said. “We can’t exhaust out. So, we’ve had to research very expensive smoke eaters. Industry-standard ones.”
Marijuana retail license applications for the Stoney Moose and Rainforest Cannabis both were approved in 5-2 votes. Gage and Council Member Dick Coose voted no each time.
Coose strongly opposed legalizing marijuana, and then advocated banning retail pot within city limits. While that failed, he continues to object to retail marijuana stores in the downtown area, citing possible impacts on the cruise industry.
“And I still think we have the opportunity to deny a store within the downtown area,” he said. “All we’ve got to do is protest this, then take it to the borough and get it fixed. We know there are cities Down South that are not allowing retail stores in the downtown corridor.”
The Ketchikan Gateway Borough has zoning powers, so the city would have to go through the borough to create a pot-free zone in downtown.
While she didn’t explain her “no” vote on Thursday, Gage also has been a strong opponent of legalized marijuana, and of allowing retail marijuana within the community.
If both retail marijuana license applications are approved by the state, they would fill the two-store quota that the Council imposed in mid-September. That quota applies only to city limits, and other retail businesses could open outside of the city. The quota does not apply to cultivation or testing facilities.
The Stoney Moose’s proposed location is on Stedman Street in the former Thai House restaurant. Rainforest Cannabis would be at 726 Water Street, across from Berth 4 of the city’s cruise dock.
Also on Thursday, the Council heard about a new service for homeless people in Ketchikan. Agnes Moran is part of a group seeking to fill gaps in services for the homeless. She said one unfilled need was shelter for intoxicated people, and those under the influence of drugs.
Through discussions with The Salvation Army, Moran said a new warming center called Gateway Cares now provides a warm, dry, safe place. They hope to keep it open through March, to help people get through the colder months. After that, they’ll have more information to form a long-term program.
“It’s been way more successful than we really expected initially, without any advertising at all,” she said. “The goal is: Once we really know, and once we know what the structure is going to be, would be to come back at you folks with what we believe is a sustainable …program.”
The new service is located at the Salvation Army on Stedman Street. Ketchikan has a day shelter that provides a warm, dry space for homeless people during the day, and a separate night shelter. But, the night shelter does not admit inebriated people.
Another local service is in the works for people who need to sleep off substance use, but Akeela-Gateway’s proposed Sobering Center still needs grant approval. Even if it receives the state grant, the center likely wouldn’t open until mid-summer.
The Ketchikan City Council’s next meeting is a special budget meeting, set for 7 p.m. Monday.