Ketchikan voters may have a say in whether to allow on-site marijuana consumption businesses in city limits.

The Ketchikan City Council agreed Thursday to have staff bring back a measure that would place the issue on the October local ballot. That followed public comment for and against allowing consumption of marijuana in a permitted commercial business.

The state recently approved rules allowing on-site consumption. However, individual communities can opt out.

Reed Harding urged the council to ban such businesses. He cited the effects of second-hand smoke.  

“I just want to speak to ventilation because they say if we do these shops, we’ll do ventilation. There’s no such thing as a ventilation system that removes all particles,” he said. “These are really fine particles in smoke. They’re so small and light, they swirl around. It doesn’t matter where the air flow is going. And these are the particles that cause lung cancer.”

Mark Woodward is co-owner of the Stoney Moose, a local marijuana store. From its inception, the store’s owners have been interested in offering on-site consumption.

Woodward told the council that the current rules approved by the state don’t allow on-site smoking unless a building is free-standing – it can’t share walls with another business or residence.

Because of that, he said, neither his business nor the only other marijuana store in the city can offer on-site consumption at this point. The state is considering a special on-site permit for edibles only. Woodward said his business would be interested in that, if rules for that are eventually approved.

“What that would look like? The regulations say you have to have a room outside of your retail store, so we would use the deck that we have,” he said. “That would look like a Starbucks. You would see people there drinking coffee and having snacks. No smoking, no vaping, no odor whatsoever.”

Summertime tourists would be a primary customer base for such a shop. Local residents can just go home to consume cannabis, but tourists don’t have that option.

Woodward said he can’t stop people from consuming cannabis on the street. An on-site consumption business would give tourists a place to do it legally.

After a lengthy discussion about the pros and cons of marijuana consumption, Council Member Sam Bergeron suggested that, since there’s time to make a decision, the city should put it in front of voters. Four council members raised their hands to bring back a measure that would place the item on the ballot.

The council also talked about whether to change its two-store limit on pot retail stores. The item was requested by a resident interested in opening another store within the city.  

Kolbe Rose manages the Stoney Moose. She said she worked in the cannabis industry Down South, where saturation became a problem.

“Not many cities have been wise enough to put a cap on the amount of marijuana retail licenses that are given out,” she said. “I believe this town has been very smart and savvy putting the retail cap at two stores and two cultivation locations. I’ve seen what happens when there isn’t a cap and … nobody wins.”

The council did not take action or give direction about changing the cannabis retail cap.

In other matters, the council talked about raising the legal age to purchase tobacco products to 21. The matter will be forwarded to the city and borough’s cooperative relations committee for further consideration.  

The next Ketchikan City Council meeting is a special meeting on May 9.