Amy Herrick, manager at the Alaskan Kush Company downtown retail store, talks about the possibility of opening an onsite consumption space on Tuesday, April 16, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Amy Herrick, manager at the Alaskan Kush Company downtown retail store, talks about the possibility of opening an onsite consumption space on Tuesday, April 16, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Smoke ‘em if you bought ‘em: Marijuana retailers would like to offer smoking space

Stores say they’re glad it’s being considered in Juneau

Amy Herrick hopes she doesn’t see wrappers, roaches or other signs of marijuana use on public trails in the coming months.

However, the store manager for Alaska Kush Company, admits even though the marijuana retailer prints warnings against public consumption on its bags, people tend to toke indiscriminately.

“It’s a super sad thing,” Herrick said during an interview with the Juneau Empire.

That’s one of the reasons she said Alaska Kush Company is excited about recent City and Borough of Juneau Committee of the Whole decisions to look into potentially changing city ordinances allowing onsite consumption of marijuana at marijuana shops.

[Committee decides to look into onsite consumption]

“It’s really great it’s back on the table,” Herrick said. “We don’t want people consuming in the streets.”

While local discussions are far from settled, as of April 11, free-standing stores can apply for endorsements from the state to allow customers to consume on their premises, which is not allowed by city ordinance.

The state’s regulations specify a number of conditions a retailer must meet for onsite consumption and those regulations have the backing of the marijuana industry.

“The official position of the Alaska Marijuana Industry Association is we support the regs as written,” said AMIA President Brandon Emmett in a phone interview with the Juneau Empire.

These include stipulations that the smoking area be separate from the rest of the store by either a separate ventilation system and secure door or by being outdoors. There are also limits on how much can be sold to a person in one day — edible products not to exceed 10 milligrams of THC and bud or flower not to exceed one gram, according to the regulations. Concentrates including wax, shatter and vape cartridges are not allowed.

“Alaska Kush Company is definitely interested in onsite consumption,” Herrick said.

Lori Martin, an employee at the Alaskan Kush Company, straightens their display of water pipes on Tuesday, April 16, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Lori Martin, an employee at the Alaskan Kush Company, straightens their display of water pipes on Tuesday, April 16, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

So is Green Elephant, said the marijuana retailer’s co-owner Jennifer Canfield, but she said in a phone interview it’s not an incredibly pressing concern. Other marijuana retailers in Juneau did not return calls seeking comment.

“We have the space, and we do meet the minimum requirements set by the state,” Canfield said. “We really feel this is a discussion we’re willing to be a part of, but we’re not going to wage a war for onsite consumption is what I’m saying.”

Both Alaska Kush Company and Green Elephant have taken some steps that would make it easier to implement onsite consumption if it becomes allowed in Juneau.

Green Elephant has initiated the application process with the state, and Alaska Kush Company has an unfinished space next to its retail location that could be completed to allow for onsite consumption.

Herrick said such an area would provide a space for people to smoke marijuana who otherwise might not have a place to smoke or who don’t want to smoke in their homes because of the presence of children.

“There’s nothing like that for people who choose marijuana,” Herrick said. “All the tourists have no place to consume. It’s just something we want to provide.”

Herrick said it’s something customers frequently ask about, and she believes it would prove to be a popular. Canfield was less certain about her clientele.

[Marijuana sellers have their biggest year yet]

“I don’t think creating a business plan around onsite consumption is realistic or sustainable at this point,” Canfield said. “I’m not certain how much of a demand there is.”

Emmett said he anticipates roll out of onsite consumption will follow a similar trend to recreational marijuana legalization and become more pervasive over time, especially if early adopters prove to be successful.

“After a year or two when we have successful onsite consumption running and they’re profitable, you’ll see the local governments take a reactive approach,” he said.

While CBJ is looking into both consumption of edibles and smoking marijuana as separate matters, both Juneau marijuana professionals said onsite smoking is a much more impactful idea.

Herrick and Canfield said that’s because edibles can take a while to kick in, and Herrick said it’s also because product for smoking tends to be more popular overall.

“If the city were to say we’re going to allow onsite consumption only for edibles, we wouldn’t even bother,” Canfield said.

Emmett had a considerably different take on the matter.

He said while an edibles-only approach might not be viable everywhere, it could work in urban areas or tourism hotbeds.

“I think that is a really intelligent discussion,” Emmett said. “I think it provides a really viable option. I think it is a great model because it is the coffee shop model. You can have a cafe. You can have a legit cafe where people can come and hang out.”


• Contact reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or bhohenstatt@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt.


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