AK: Fairbanks Borough Assembly Kill On-Site Cannabis Use Resolution

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Ron Strider

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The Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly killed a resolution that would have supported on-site use of cannabis at pot shops in Alaska on Thursday.

The state's Marijuana Control Board is scheduled to revisit the issue during its Nov. 14-15 meeting in Anchorage. Public comments on the proposed regulations will be taken through Oct. 27.

Assemblyman Andrew Gray introduced the resolution, saying it was based on one passed recently in Anchorage. He also said it would have supported local control of local consumption, should the state board approve regulations.

Assemblyman Lance Roberts maintained that on-site use would be illegal and not what voters approved when they legalized sales. He said Gov. Bill Walker's industry-controlled marijuana board prompted the push.

Assemblyman Matt Cooper disagreed with Gray on some points but said he probably would approve a cleaned-up version.

"It doesn't say things it should say," Cooper said. "It doesn't really enshrine local control. It doesn't mesh with our smoke free workplace resolution. It doesn't critique the regulations. I think it should include a comment on the regulations, and it should be more thoughtful."

Assemblyman Shaun Tacke, a member of the marijuana cultivation industry, suggested the assembly postpone the vote until Oct. 19 and improve it during a work session. He also said they could research the conflicting information brought forth by borough residents. Referring to Vivian Stiver's public comments, Tacke said it was absurd that cannabis smoke couldn't be filtered and safely released into the atmosphere.

Roberts called Tacke's postponement idea a political ploy, and it was voted down.

Public comments on the measure were almost evenly divided between supporters and opponents. Political gadfly Frank Turney said allowing on-site consumption was a matter of freedom. Dalton Payne assured the assembly that people do sober up after consuming cannabis and that customers could be monitored. Greg Allison, of GOOD Cannabis and the Alaska Marijuana Industry Association, said on-site use would provide a safe, controlled place for customers.

Asa Dowdy was most concerned about cannabis users driving impaired after leaving the pot shops. Dowdy mentioned his daughter had been killed by a drunken driver.

Rita Leake was concerned about what she said was the moral decay in Fairbanks.

"What's next, opium dens?" Leake asked. "I don't think we're the Golden Heart City anymore. We're going to be the Stoner Capital, and it's sad you're allowing it to happen."

Assemblyman Guy Sattley thanked Gray for introducing the resolution "prematurely." He said it would draw more attention – and more voters – to the polls Oct. 3. In the meantime, Sattley said, residents could investigate zoning in their neighborhoods and decide what zoning they want.

Assemblywoman Kathryn Dodge said she could not approve the resolution because the marijuana industry is moving "far too fast."

Assemblyman Van Lawrence said he could not figure out why pot should not be smoked at a business. He originally voted in favor of the ordinance.

The resolution failed 3-4, with Tacke, Gray and Lawrence voting in favor. However, after an immediate recall, Lawrence changed his vote. Assemblymen Christopher Quist and John Davies were absent.

Every member of the Fairbanks City Council and Mayor Jim Matherly oppose on-site use, said Councilman David Pruhs, who attended the assembly meeting to clarify the council's position.

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