The Anchorage Assembly on Tuesday made it legal for cannabis customers to eat marijuana products within designated areas of retail shops. Smoking or inhaling marijuana in shops is still prohibited.
But before any marijuana edibles are consumed on site, the businesses first must acquire endorsements from the city and state. The endorsement process is expected to take months, said city officials.
The Assembly approved the new marijuana-related ordinance in a 7-4 vote at its Tuesday meeting, with Assembly members Fred Dyson, Crystal Kennedy, Suzanne LaFrance and Austin Quinn-Davidson voting no.
Before the vote, some who opposed the ordinance told the Assembly they had concerns about public safety and public health, especially if in-store smoking is eventually allowed. Some asked the Assembly to slow down and allow more time for analysis.
Some supporters, however, said on-site consumption paved the way for educating customers about edibles. Some praised how marijuana businesses have operated in the city so far, and some said they didn’t expect many businesses to pursue the new endorsements.
“Very, very few locations may take advantage of this new change in the law,” said Assemblyman John Weddleton, a supporter of the ordinance. “I just can’t imagine it being an earth-shattering, big change in the marijuana industry.”
Mayor Ethan Berkowitz co-sponsored the ordinance. City officials said last month that with tourist season approaching, the Berkowitz administration wanted some way of allowing people to consume marijuana products on the premises of retail stores.
The Assembly vote follows a decision by the state of Alaska to allow on-site cannabis use in retail marijuana shops. The state rules went into effect in April. Local governments can adopt and add restrictions to the state rules or bar on-site use entirely.
The new Anchorage ordinance says businesses must be freestanding, licensed retail marijuana stores with approved on-site consumption endorsements before edibles can be eaten on their premises. The edibles must be bought from the store and can be consumed only in a designated area that’s separate from other parts of the business.
The ordinance also provides a framework for what would be required of businesses if the Assembly later changed the law to allow for smoking or inhalation of marijuana in stores. Currently, Anchorage’s indoor and workplace smoking bans apply to marijuana smoke, according to city officials.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.