Petersburg Pilot -

Assembly prohibits on-site marijuana consumption

 


The Petersburg Borough Assembly continued to hear public opinion on amendments to the Smoke Free Air Act ordinance at its meeting Monday. The discussion was the second reading and ended with the assembly removing any wording that would have permitted licensed marijuana retail stores to allow on-site marijuana smoking.

“It sounds like the town has spoken, that they would prefer not to have smoking in a retail establishment and I feel that sounds like a solid plan,” said assembly member Eric Castro.

Castro said he wanted to separate the commercial sale of marijuana from on-site consumption, and the removal of any opportunity for a retail facility was a good first step. The majority of the assembly agreed with Castro and multiple residents that spoke out against allowing on-site consumption, and the motion passed 5-1.

Susan Burrell attended the meeting and clarified her future plans for a retail facility, making sure to clear up any “gossip going around.” Although she was in favor of allowing smoking marijuana in a retail facility, she has no plans of applying for the necessary license.

“I want to stress now that I have not in any way shape or form applied for a permit to smoke in my facility, if I ever get one,” she said.

Petersburg resident Barbara Fish said she was completely against allowing smoking of any kind in a public place or retail facility, whether it’s marijuana or tobacco. Fish referenced current the ad campaign by the Alaska Tobacco Quit Line, and the positive work the organization has done to help many Alaskans stop smoking tobacco.

“My feeling is that if you allow smoking of marijuana in a public place then, I don’t want to use the word slippery slope, but like you’re condoning smoking,” she said. “I think it’s a complete double standard to allow marijuana smoking and not allowing any other kind of smoking,”

Katie Yeckley, Petersburg Indian Association’s tobacco prevention and control director, requested terminology be added to the ordinance, and did not want on-site marijuana consumption.

“Smoking is smoking,” Yeckley said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s cigarette smoke or marijuana smoke, and it should not be allowed in any enclosed public places, including a marijuana retail facility.”

Yeckley recommended the assembly remove the section of the ordinance permitting businesses to have a designated smoking room, even if they were compliant with regulations. She also desired an increase of the minimum distance for smoking cigarettes from local businesses from five feet to 10-25 feet. However, the majority of the assembly disagreed with those requests, and the wording of the ordinance remained.

“Unless we absolutely prohibit smoking publicly downtown we can’t solve some of those problems, in my opinion,” said assembly member Bob Lynn. “I get to thinking about those that are smokers, I am not, but is it right to chase them totally away or take all what they consider their rights away?”

The third reading of the Smoke Free Air Act amendments will take place at the assembly’s next meeting, along with the third reading of the marijuana ordinance. The next assembly meeting will have to wait until July 18, because the assembly will not have a quorum for its July 5 meeting, according to borough clerk Debra Thompson. The assembly must have four members physically in attendance, so the decision on the two matters will resume Monday, July 18.

 

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