People in Juneau can’t smoke marijuana in the stores that sell it — for now.
During Monday night’s City and Borough of Juneau Committee of the Whole meeting, the committee voted to refer allowing onsite consumption under certain conditions, which is allowed under state law but prohibited by local ordinance, to the full Assembly.
Assembly members Wade Bryson, Carole Triem, Rob Edwardson, Alicia Hughes-Skandijs and Maria Gladziszewski voted to forward a much-discussed ordinance to the Assembly. Both Assembly member Loren Jones and Assembly member Mary Becker voted against it. Mayor Beth Weldon was not present.
Those for and against the possible ordinance change voiced different reasons for their stance.
Becker said amending city ordinance to allow for onsite consumption seemed to be too much trouble to go through to make it easier for people to smoke marijuana.
Jones expressed more concern for the implications a change in ordinance could have on the city’s tobacco ordinance.
“Allowing edibles, that’s fine,” Jones said.
Bryson, who was staunchly in favor of allowing onsite consumption, said he had talked to local marijuana professionals who said allowing onsite consumption of edibles would not be something they’d take advantage of. Still, the ordinance forwarded to the Assembly would still allow for onsite edibles.
Bryson’s reasoning for being in favor of allowing people to smoke marijuana in a ventilated portion of a standalone structure is that people are going to smoke marijuana in Juneau since they can buy it, and he would strongly prefer that people not illegally smoke it in public.
“If you hate marijuana smoke, you should be in favor of onsite consumption in private rooms,” Bryson said.
Edwardson said to him the question was a matter of allowing greater personal freedoms.
“We’re here talking about something that’s not harmful or if it is there are more harmful things that are available right now,” Edwardson said. “If this isn’t harmful then people should have a right to do it. We should be removing hurdles, not putting hurdles in front of them.”
The question of what allowing onsite consumption means for Juneau’s secondhand smoke ordinance is still up in the air.
City Attorney Robert Palmer said by regulating tobacco and marijuana smoke differently, it could open the city up to litigation on behalf of people who want to smoke tobacco indoors.
The city could opt to preemptively change its ordinances to more closely mirror state law which already permits onsite consumption, or it could do nothing.
It’s possible in the event of litigation, a court could find the two types of smoke should be regulated differently, Palmer said.
Another potential idea shared by Gladziszewski during the meetings was the possibility of amending the city ordinance to technically allow for standalone tobacco consumption rooms with the understanding it’s unlikely a smoking club would come to exist.
However, there was no instruction to prepare such an ordinance from the committee.
• Contact reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt.