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Juneau City Officials Approve On-Site Cannabis Consumption at Dispensaries

The key to the ordinance was making sure second-hand smoke would not be an issue.

Juneau City Officials Approve On-Site Cannabis Consumption at Dispensaries
Canna Obscura/ Shutterstock

City officials in Juneau, Alaska approved an ordinance on Monday that will allow the on-site consumption of cannabis products at licensed marijuana dispensaries. The ordinance was passed by the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly at Monday’s meeting by a vote of 6 to 2.

Under the measure, Juneau cannabis dispensaries licensed by the state would be permitted to allow customers to smoke marijuana and consume cannabis edibles. The consumption of edibles would be permitted indoors but smoking cannabis would only be allowed outdoors at locations approved by state regulators.

The ordinance was approved after months of debate over whether on-site consumption could be allowed without conflicting with Juneau’s second-hand smoke laws. Assemblymember Wade Bryson, one of the supporters of the ordinance, believes that allowing cannabis smoking at dispensaries would discourage people from illegally smoking pot in public places.

“If you don’t like marijuana smoke, you should be for this ordinance,” Bryson said during Monday’s meeting.

Assemblymembers Maria Gladziszewski, Carole Triem, Alicia Hughes-Skandijs, Rob Edwardson, and Michelle Bonnet Hale also voted in favor of the on-site consumption ordinance. Mayor Beth Weldon and Assemblymember Mary Becker voted against the measure. Becker said she doesn’t “want marijuana used inside or outside.”

“If I had my way, it’d be nowhere, but I do not have my way,” she added.

Before the Assembly voted, Weldon proposed an amendment that would have only permitted the vaping of cannabis products at outdoor on-site consumption areas but the change was ultimately not included in the measure.

Ordinance Stricter Than State Law

Although she voted for the ordinance, Assemblymember Triem said that smoking cannabis should be permitted anywhere cigarette smoking is allowed. Gladziszewski said that smoking indoors at dispensaries may eventually be allowed, noting that regulations in California originally did not permit on-site consumption but have since been relaxed.

“If California can figure it out, Juneau can figure it out, too,” Gladziszewski said.

Business owners in Juneau’s legal marijuana industry including Jennifer Canfield, a co-owner of cannabis retailer Green Elephant, and Ben Wilcox, co-owner of THC Alaska, say that the on-site consumption ordinance goes too far because it is more restrictive than state law. Wilcox believes that concerns over second-hand smoke are given too much weight, noting that he doesn’t drive but is subjected to vehicle exhaust every day.

“We’re looking for 100 percent safety?” he asked. “We’re in Alaska. We have crabbing. We have oil.”

Green Elephant may be the only dispensary in Juneau that will be able to make the accommodations necessary to provide an outdoor on-site consumption lounge for smoking cannabis. But although the ordinance goes into effect in 30 days, Canfield doesn’t believe that on-site consumption will begin at Green Elephant any time soon.

“It’s not going to happen this year,” she said.

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