Fairbanks City Council postpones onsite marijuana consumption

Published: Apr. 10, 2019 at 9:17 AM AKDT
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The Fairbanks City Council held their regular meeting Monday April 8th, which allowed time during citizen’s comments to voice their thoughts on ordinance 6101. In the end the ordinance was voted to be postponed.

The Ordinance would allow marijuana retail stores and establishments on-site consumption of cannabis in accordance to state law.

Alaska regulators approved rules for on-site consumption of marijuana at specialty designated shops in December of 2018.

Local governments have the option to bar onsite consumption by an ordinance or ballot question.

There were 25 people who shared comments regarding the ordinance. Of those 25, 14 residents spoke out in favor, and 11 voiced their thoughts and concerns in opposition. .

One Fairbanks Resident Frank Tourney spoke out in favor of the ordinance.

"First of all I'd like to kick start this cannabis ordinance, you know I remember during the work session Mr. Pruhs said let’s do it right, well I believe there is light in the tunnel, we can do it right,” said Tourney.

Another resident voiced their opposition against the ordinance stating there is no way to test for those who choose to drive after consuming marijuana. "With mind altering drugs all of them, you’re going to be impaired," he said.

Another resident said, "Some person will claim, yeah are you are completely inebriated by one joint or one hit, and you ask them how many have you done and they claim, oh I've never smoked, well okay where is your credibility?"

One woman spoke out against the ordinance. "You get so far gone you don't move and then someone has to move you. And sometimes you can't talk, or you can't tell them where you live," she explained.

After citizen’s comments the council deliberated on issues pertaining to onsite consumption. Council member Shoshana Kun took the lead on the conversation.

"We do know that there is economic aspects, it provides a safe place for tourists to consume," she explained. She went on to say that opening the door to onsite consumption would not only bring in those tourists who vacation here, but also give them a safe place to consume legally.

Council member David Pruhs stated he did not want to grant those businesses special privileges and making the claim that if they did not vote to pass the ordinance it wouldn’t harm the marijuana industry as it stands.

Council member Jerry Cleworth addressed the council members stating he did not feel comfortable passing the ordinance.

He questioned the contingencies that come with public consumption. He stated he would like to take time to rewrite the ordinance so that it is clear and easy to understand, and to put in on the ballot for the people to vote in the upcoming election.

"I have no problem putting this before the voters of the city of Fairbanks," said Cleworth.

Council member Katheryn Ottersten voted for the ordinance stating that it could help those who may have restrictions in their housing units giving them a safe place to consume cannabis.

Ottersten said those who live in apartments and housing units that are smoke free would have a place to take their medicine.

Council member June Rodgers voiced concern saying that it is a step backwards after the state and city passed the smoke-free workplace bill in May of 2018.

"We put a lot of effort into creating that stand and to make a complete U-turn on that just doesn't sit right with me," said Rodgers

Council member Valerie Therrien stated to the council that she is torn on this decision. She understands council member Ottersten’s thoughts on those residents that use Marijuana for medicinal purposes, but was concerned about the increased stress it could impose on an already short staffed police force. She also asked sponsors to post-pone the ordinance.

"I think no matter what we do, if we voted up there is going to be controversy if we vote it down its going to go before the voters," Said Therrien.

After much deliberation the council voted 4 to 2 to postpone the ordinance with Pruhs, Cleworth, Rogers, and Therrien voting for the postponement.

Council members Kun and Ottersten voted to not postpone the ordinance. The council will revisit ordinance 6101 at the next meeting on April 22, 2019.