Kodiak’s marijuana retail shops are one step closer to being able to sell edible marijuana products.
The City Council voted Thursday to advance an amended ordinance to repeal a ban on the sale of edible marijuana products to a second reading and public hearing.
The vote reflects a change in public perception from 2018 when the Marijuana Advisory Committee recommended to prohibit the sale of edibles within city limits and to revisit the topic within a year.
Councilor Terry Haines has previously expressed his support of repealing the ban because of the impact edibles have had on his mother’s pain levels. She is suffering from fibromyalgia, which has caused her severe pain.
“We shouldn't hold marijuana to a higher standard than anything else that's legal because the fact is, it is legal,” he said, adding that edibles treated her pain without the side effects she experienced on heavier drugs.
Other supporters of repealing the ban have said selling edibles legally in retail shops would allow stricter regulations.
“Individuals making edibles on their own do not have access for testing. Some milligrams of THC can vary extremely from one piece to the next. They are not incrementally dosed out” into the state of Alaska’s dosage requirement, said Janiese Stevens, the owner of marijuana retail shop Wildflower, located on Near Island.
While there has been an overwhelming amount of support for repealing the ban, Councillor John Whiddon and some community members still have concerns about allowing edibles to be sold in marijuana retail shops.
Whiddon said he has no issue with adults using edible marijuana products, but he has heard numerous concerns about minors having easier access to edibles, in particular to “younger kids who might not have the ability to differentiate between a marijuana edible and something that might just be a household product,” he said.
He is the only council member who has expressed opposition to the ordinance.
Whiddon said if the repeal is approved, education about edibles would need to improve “so we aren’t introducing something that is going to cause a public health and public safety problem,” Whiddon said.
At a previous council work session, substance abuse counselor Jonathan Strong said he was against allowing the sale of edible marijuana products because of the side effects they can have on people, especially in children.
“How the body processes the chemicals, the THC, which is the active chemical in marijuana, is a lot different than somebody smoking it,” Strong said. “Many, if not most of the people going to the emergency rooms and overdosing on marijuana, it’s from the edibles. If you are not used to it, you could have a psychotic-type episode.”
Nia Maile from the Wildflower marijuana retail shop responded to Strong’s comments by saying the store would help educate the community on edibles.
During the public comment period before the council discussion, community member Kent Cross voiced his opposition to the ordinance.
While Cross said he is not against the use of marijuana edibles for medicinal purposes, he cited information from National Institutes of Health about their negative impacts on health as a reason he is against the ordinance.
“Look up the information and ask yourself, is it really good for the individual and is it good for the community?” Cross said. “If you have to educate people on how bad it is to use it, it shouldn't be approved.”
According to the borough, the city’s ordinance will only affect the two marijuana retail shops within city limits, Wildflower and High Rise LLC. The sale of marijuana edibles outside city limits will still be prohibited.
The public hearing, scheduled for the next city council meeting on March 12, will be an opportunity for community members to voice their opinions for or against repealing the ban on the sale of marijuana edibles within city limits.