This spring, voters will decide whether Anchorage will join cities like Fairbanks, Juneau and Ketchikan in allowing people to smoke on-site
Ballot Proposition 11 would legalize on-site consumption in Anchorage, but under strict regulations. The room where people could smoke marijuana would be sequestered from the rest of the retail store. If indoors, it would have a separate door and could only be accessed from inside the building.
Outdoor areas would need to be hidden from sight. Odor from people smoking the marijuana would need to be undetectable by a person with normal sense of smell from the property’s lot line.
The smoking lounges would be monitored by employees from a smoke-free environment, though the employees could enter the lounge during an emergency.
A patron could purchase up to 1 gram to consume on-site.
A business would need to have on-site consumption endorsement approved by the Anchorage Assembly. City code enforcement makes sure retail shops comply with the regulations. If a shop were to violate regulations, the Assembly could revoke that endorsement.
According to attorney Jana Weltzin, who represents marijuana businesses around the state, it would cost around $50,000 to $100,000 to build an on-site consumption room in Anchorage. She guessed about five of her local clients would apply for an on-site consumption license.
Any business that applies for an on-site consumption license would need to show plans complying with the regulations and have signs advertising the health risks and that it illegal to drive while impaired.
The main argument from proponents, such as industry representatives and some Assembly members, is that on-site consumption is tourist-friendly. Outsiders flock to Alaska in the summer, and some want to sample the cannabis legal here, but not in their home state. However, hotels don’t allow people to smoke marijuana in the rooms, and it’s illegal to smoke outside.
On-site consumption allows local businesses to cater to that specific need.
Assemblyman Felix Rivera said Tuesday he had expected campaigns on both sides of the issue by now, but so far has heard nothing. No political groups have filed expenditure reports with the state in relation to Proposition 11.
Weltzin likewise said she wasn’t aware of any campaigns on the proposition, but said she hopes to see some proponents as the election nears.
There is some opposition. Former Assemblyman Dick Traini testified to the Assembly against the concept in October. He and former Assemblymen Paul Honeman and Eric Croft, a 2021 mayoral candidate, recently wrote an op-ed on why they are against the idea.
They mostly did so on the grounds of workplace safety and the potential for increased driver impairment.
“I have long been a supporter of legalized marijuana. I think it makes so much more sense to regulate it and tax it than throw people in jail for it,” Croft said. “But I think pot bars, and Anchorage being one of the first cities to allow it, is a bad idea.”