Prop 11: Onsite smoking of marijuana in Anchorage

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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) Proposition 11 on the 2020 Anchorage Municipal ballot would allow cannabis businesses to apply for a license to have on-site smoking of marijuana.

Anchorage already has a similar rule for consumption of edibles, though no Anchorage businesses have been approved for that yet. Susan Noland, owner of Alaska Fireweed, said that’s because many are waiting to see if smoking is legalized as well.

“Then we would do the build-out all at once,” she said.

Noland supports the proposition because many people in Anchorage, including tourists, have no place to legally use cannabis.

“Our rules and regulations say, number one, you can’t smoke on the streets, Anchorage is no-smoking, and the hotels don’t allow smoking within the hotels,” she said.

To be approved for on-site consumption, businesses would need to have areas for consumption that are separated from employees and well-ventilated to protect them from secondhand smoke. Noland said she doesn’t expect many businesses to be approved.

“They’re gonna be very challenging, if this vote does pass, for the retailers to meet those requirements,” she said.

The American Cancer Society has been opposed to the proposition since the Assembly started drafting it in the Summer. They said ventilation wouldn’t be enough to protect employees from secondhand smoke.

“You can remove smell, you can remove visible smoke, but you can’t actually remove the ultrafine particles that are the most dangerous parts of secondhand smoke exposure,” said Emily Nenon, Alaska Government Relations Director for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network.

Nenon said she’s also worried about patrons of marijuana retailers smoking onsite and driving away while high.

“We know marijuana impairs motor function,” she said.

Supporters have said that employees could be trained to recognize impaired patrons, much like a bartender is trained to identify someone too intoxicated to drive.

If the proposition passes, retailers would still need approval from both the Anchorage Assembly, and AMCO, the state's Alcohol & Marijuana Control Office. Currently, only two businesses have been approved by AMCO for onsite consumption statewide, so it would likely be a while before any businesses in Anchorage are ready to roll it out.

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