Big Leaf Alaska

Marijuana clones are taken as employees of Big Leaf Alaska, a marijuana trimming contractor, work at the Alaska Cannabis Cultivators facility Thursday morning, August 17, 2017. The Fairbanks City Council is considering taking on-site consumption to a public vote in October 2019.

Fairbanks voters could have the chance to decide whether to allow the new class of state-sanctioned marijuana consumption businesses within city limits.

A vote at the Fairbanks City Council meeting tonight would start the two-meeting process of putting the issue on the October local election ballot. The move to put the issue before voters followed a failed effort in the council earlier this month that would have otherwise allowed cannabis consumption businesses outright, provided the businesses would follow the new statewide regulations. 

Last month, Alaska adapted statewide rules that allow some marijuana shops to open what is the cannabis equivalent of a bar. Alaska is the first U.S. state to adopt statewide rules for this type of business, which is already permitted by a handful of municipal authorities in parts of the Lower 48.

In Fairbanks, City Council members’ debate at the last meeting focused on public safety, and concern from some council members that allowing marijuana consumption businesses would cause more people to drive under the influence of marijuana.

Police Chief Eric Jewkes said at an earlier work session that he was concerned about Fairbanks being “at the cutting edge” of this new type of business at a time when the police department is understaffed.

Council members also expressed concerns that they would be sending a mixed message by permitting public on-site cannabis smoking despite support for tighter regulations on public tobacco smoking. In 2018, the Alaska Legislature passed a law that banned smoking in all public spaces and workspaces, including bars and restaurants. The Fairbanks City Council approved a resolution supporting the idea of a smoke-free workplace law in 2017.

The marijuana on-site consumption regulations approved by the Alaska Marijuana Control Board address the smoke-free workplace law by requiring businesses to provide a smoke-free location where employees can monitor customers who occupy the marijuana consumption area. The regulations would require marijuana consumption businesses to be a part of freestanding marijuana retail shops, where marijuana could be consumed in a designated area that is separate from the retail store, and must either be outside or has ventilation system. The rules also set limits on how much pot can be sold to each consumer per day on this side of the business: The limits are 1 gram of bud (for smoking) or edibles with a maximum of 10 mg of THC.

The Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office began accepting applications for on-site consumption licenses earlier this month.

Contact Outdoors Editor Sam Friedman at 459-7545. Follow him on Twitter:@FDNMoutdoors.

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