Anchorage residents divided on potential marijuana regulations

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Anchorage residents weighed-in on the city’s first public hearing for the legalization of on-site smoking of marijuana at Tuesday's Anchorage Assembly meeting.

Many said they are not thrilled about the idea. They’re concerned that potential secondhand smoke resulting from legalizing smoking at licensed retail marijuana shops would violate the city's smoking ban.

"I don't want to see the Municipality take a step backwards and say, 'Okay, let's allow the consumption of marijuana on-site," Anchorage resident Penny Palmquist said.

Assembly member Forrest Dunbar, who co-authored the ordinance, has said it would not overturn the existing smoking ban. It follows state regulations for on-site consumption, which require high-tech ventilation systems to prevent smoke from escaping designated areas, and prohibit odor violations.

Some members of the public are not sold on the idea that sufficient ventilation systems even exist to cancel out potential secondhand smoke exposure. Others, however, support the ordinance for giving medical marijuana patients a place to use their medicine.

"Cannabis is providing a safe means for millions of people across the country to reduce their use and dosages of dangerous drugs such as opioids,” medical marijuana advocate Cheryl Bowie said. “I support on-site consumption, and I hope that you guys continue to."

The assembly's goal is to get this ordinance onto the 2020 ballot. The deadline to make that possible is Jan. 2020.

A Joint Health Policy and Public Safety Committee meeting is scheduled for Sept. 20, followed by two work sessions. Voters will have another chance to weigh-in after the assembly writes an amended ordinance.

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