The Ketchikan City Council had been scheduled to vote on a resolution that would ask the state Marijuana Control Board to establish regulations for on-site marijuana consumption businesses. The Council delayed that vote on Thursday, but not until after hearing about 40 minutes of public comment on the topic.
Three people spoke against endorsing on-site consumption, and three spoke in favor.
Reed Harding said he’s concerned about secondhand smoke that could affect people in buildings next to pot stores. He said it’s not possible to install filters that will adequately clean the air, and he’s worried about his daughter who works next door to one of the local marijuana shops.
Renee Schofield runs a business that offers drug screening services. She asked the Council to table the resolution because the state hasn’t even drafted rules yet.
“We can’t really support something we don’t know what it looks like yet,” she said. “I think we need to slow down. Plenty of time once they get them written. You’ll have 60 days for public comment at that point in time. You can bring this back and look at it then.”
Terrence Robbins, who works in substance abuse prevention, cited studies that he said show secondhand smoke from marijuana can be harmful. He also cited a study that indicates 20 percent of Alaskans use marijuana. Robbins questioned why the city would cater to such a small percentage of residents.
Mark Woodward and Eric Reimer are co-owners of the Stoney Moose, a cannabis store on Stedman Street that has plans for an on-site consumption lounge if the state approves rules for such a business. Each spoke in favor of the resolution.
Woodward said with Ketchikan’s strong tourism industry, on-site consumption is badly needed. People are consuming in public now, he says, and there are no controls in place.
Reimer said the Stoney Moose has a wide variety of customers.
“I get grandmas in there,” he said. “I get people coming off of their opiate medication who say yes, I use this and I’m getting off the drugs that help me go to sleep.”
Reimer said even if the statistic that only 20 percent of Alaskans use marijuana is correct, more than 50 percent voted to legalize it. He also noted that if people are entering a marijuana smoking lounge, they probably aren’t worried about secondhand smoke. And, he said, the ventilation system they have planned will not affect neighboring buildings.
David Wheeler spoke briefly to say that he had a bypass a few months ago and none of the prescription pain medication helped. But, he said, some marijuana-infused cookies did.
Council Member Julie Isom requested the resolution for Thursday’s meeting agenda. She also proposed delaying a vote on it until the next meeting because three of the seven Council members were absent.
Before making the motion to defer, though, Isom clarified that the resolution doesn’t endorse any regulations. It merely encourages the state board to move forward with creating rules for on-site consumption.
Isom said she received a lot of feedback about the resolution before the meeting, including 176 comments on a single Facebook post.
“Besides those comments, I received 34 emails, 13 face-to-face meetings and a dozen or so phone calls from people,” she said. “And of those 230-some-odd forms of communication and comments, less than 2 percent were definitely against pushing this resolution forward.”
Isom said she doesn’t use marijuana; her support for the resolution comes from what she has heard from local residents.
The motion to defer the resolution until the August 3 meeting passed 4-0. Council Members Janalee Gage, Bob Sivertsen and David Kiffer were absent, although Kiffer arrived shortly before the meeting adjourned.