Consuming marijuana at the stores that sell it will be allowed in Juneau — with a couple of big caveats.
The City and Borough of Juneau Assembly approved Monday an ordinance that would allow outdoor smoking at state-approved sellers and indoor consumption of edibles. The decision followed months of debate about whether onsite smoking could be allowed without causing problems for the city’s secondhand smoke laws.
“If you don’t like marijuana smoke, you should be for this ordinance,” Assembly member Wade Bryson said during the meeting.
He reiterated points he has made in the past that allowing onsite consumption could potentially curb the number of people illegally, publicly consuming marijuana.
Being pro-business and keeping marijuana smoke out of public spaces were among the reasons given by Assembly members Maria Gladziszewski, Carole Triem, Alicia Hughes-Skandijs, Rob Edwardson and Michelle Bonnet Hale for supporting the ordinance, which passed by a 6-2 vote.
Assembly member Mary Becker and Mayor Beth Weldon voted against the ordinance.
“I don’t want marijuana used outside or inside,” Becker said. “If I had my way, it’d be nowhere, but I do not have my way.”
Prior to the vote on the ordinance, Weldon proposed an amendment that would only allow outdoor consumption of marijuana via vaping in order to cut down on secondhand smoke in the air. That amendment failed.
Triem said there are places outdoors where cigarettes are allowed to be smoked and marijuana should be regulated the same way.
During public testimony, both people for and against onsite consumption were critical of the ordinance.
Residents such as Kristin Cox and Emily Davis spoke to the harmful impacts of secondhand smoke.
Those connected to the marijuana industry such as Jennifer Canfield, co-owner of marijuana retailer Green Elephant; and Ben Wilcox, co-owner of THC Alaska; criticized the ordinance for not allowing onsite smoking which is allowed under state law.
Wilcox said he is a lifelong non-driver, but he has to be subjected to exhaust everyday.
“We’re looking for 100 percent safety?” Wilcox asked. “We’re in Alaska. We have crabbing. We have oil.”
Canfield said marijuana retailers are simply trying to give people a space to do what they’re already going to do while keeping smoke out of public places.
Green Elephant may be the only local seller that could make accommodations to allow onsite outdoors smoking after the ordinance goes into effect in 30 days, but Canfield said she does not think that will happen soon.
“It’s not going to happen this year,” she said.
However, she said other businesses may attempt to take advantage of allowing onsite indoor edible consumption more quickly.
Assembly members agreed that allowing outdoor onsite smoking at state-approved businesses may just be a first step and other states have show it’s possible to prioritize clean air and allow onsite smoking.
Gladziszewski said California was early to placing restrictions on smoking cigarettes in restaurants and other public spaces but allows onsite, indoors smoking.
“If California can figure it out, Juneau can figure it out, too,” Gladziszewski said.
• Contact reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt.