In a previous version of this article, the Empire made an error in reporting the relationship between Aaron Bean and Rainforest Farms. Bean and the current owners of Rainforest Farms, LLC. which owns the retail shop on Second Street, Giono and James Barrett, previously had a business relationship that has since ended. Giono Barrett contacted the Empire after the article’s initial publication and provided clarification. The two parties are currently in court over contract disputes, according to court documents. Bean currently owns an active business license under the name Rainforest Farms Cafe issued July 15, 2020, and the Empire confused that license with the one for the business on Second Street which is operated under a business license using the name Glacier Valley Shoppe which is owned by Rainforest Farms LLC.
Additionally, all references to the Planning Commission staff have been changed to Community Development Department after receiving clarification from the City and Borough of Juneau. CDD staff also pointed out they only recommended the application be approved, but the Planning Commission has yet to approve the permit. The article has been updated to reflect the change. The Empire regrets the error.
Juneau could get its first business to allow onsite cannabis consumption, if a permit is approved next month.
Rainforest Farms on Second Street downtown submitted an application to the City and Borough of Juneau to modify the inside of the business to create a space for consuming cannabis. Only eating edibles would be allowed at the site, according to the application, and only in the designated area. Smoking or vaping will not be allowed.
The state legalized onsite consumption in March of 2019, and CBJ OK’d it under certain conditions last summer. If approved, Rainforest Farms would be Juneau’s first shop to take advantage.
According to the application, the owners, brothers Giono and James Barrett want to make minor alterations to the inside of their business, mainly installing one wall, to separate the retail side of the business from the consumption area.
The Department of Community Development has already recommended the plans, which include the addition of the wall and air filtration systems to prevent excessive smell coming from the business, be approved by the Planning Commission. Consumption outside of the building is not being proposed or permitted with this use permit, according to the city’s review of the application.
The permit is scheduled to go before the CBJ Planning Commission meeting Aug. 11.
DCD staff recommends the commission approve the permit with two conditions. First, certain doors in the building must be made into emergency exits. Secondly, all trash with marijuana product in it would be placed into locked disposal bins and transported directly to the CBJ landfill, staff recommendations say.
“We are proposing and planning to use this space for both retail and onsite consumption. A non-load-bearing wall will be added to separate the onsite-consumption area from the retail area,” the application says. “Mostly aesthetics changes will be made to the retail and onsite consumption area aspect of the operation. There will be security cameras added to premises to cover areas needed. An additional wall and a door will create a separate onsite consumption area. Security doors will separate both retail and consumption areas. Smoking or vaping will not be allowed.”
Assembly member Carole Triem told the Empire Thursday she wasn’t familiar with the application, but generally supported the idea of allowing onsite consumption of cannabis.
“As long as they’re following the state’s rules and the rules the Assembly put forward, we should give people a place to do it,” she said. “It makes sense to treat marijuana like we treat alcohol.”
The permit could end up before the Assembly if the Planning Commission’s decision is appealed, according to Laurel Christian, the city’s planner in charge of the Rainforest permit. Anyone can file an appeal within 20 days of the notice of decision being filed with the city clerk’s office, Christian said, which would then send the permit to the Assembly for a vote.
There’s still a state permitting process the business will have to go through, Christian said, but if the decision isn’t appealed within 20 days the Planning Commission’s decision will stand.
Public comment is open on the permit, and some have already been submitted. One couple submitted a letter saying they supported marijuana for medical purposes but had concerns that many cannabis edibles strongly resemble children’s candies. The letter didn’t oppose the idea outright, but did pose a number of questions about public safety.
Assembly member Loren Jones, who is also on the state Marijuana Control Board, refused to comment Rainforest’s permit but said he voted against allowing on-site consumption in the city.
“The Assembly approved on-site consumption if they followed State rules and provided it was outside. I voted no,” Jones wrote in an email. “The State has rules for on-site consumption based on State Law about smoking in any building. I voted no as a member of the Board.”
Public comment can be submitted online until noon, Aug 7, according to the application, and public testimony will be taken at the Planning Commission meeting at 7 p.m. Aug. 11.
• Contact reporter Peter Segall at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @SegallJnoEmpire.