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Anchorage marijuana license rules would ban pot use in retail stores

  • Author: Devin Kelly
  • Updated: September 28, 2016
  • Published January 15, 2016

A ban on marijuana bars and social clubs and random marijuana testing for pesticides or other harmful substances at retail stores are among the more contentious elements of Anchorage's draft cannabis business license regulations released this week.

Anchorage officials have been developing a local license for marijuana businesses as a way to give local government more control over enforcement. But industry leaders have said a local license would be redundant to a state license and overly burdensome, and have promised to fight it in the coming weeks.

The first draft of the licensing regulations emerged at a Thursday meeting of the Anchorage Assembly's marijuana regulation committee. Most of the regulations are copied directly from proposed state regulations. But, unlike the state regulations, the proposed Anchorage rules explicitly bar business owners from allowing people to buy marijuana at a retail store and consume it on the premises.

Marijuana social clubs, where customers bring their own products to consume, aren't permitted under either the proposed state or Anchorage regulations.

Assembly member Ernie Hall, who chairs the committee on marijuana regulation, said he doubted the on-site consumption ban would ultimately remain in the regulations.

"It's much better to have something in the ordinance that we introduce, and amend it to take it out," rather than try to insert the provision at the last minute, Hall said.

The proposed licensing regulations also create a way for the city health department to require retail marijuana stores to provide samples of marijuana products for testing "at any time and without notice." The testing may look for pesticides, molds, metals or harmful chemicals, according to the regulations. The draft regulations include a table on contamination thresholds for nearly 60 types of pesticides.

The retail store will bear the cost of the laboratory testing, said Steve Morris, deputy director of the city's Department of Health and Human Services.

Morris said state regulations do not allow for city health officials to pull cannabis products off a retail shelf and check for contamination.

Both the on-site consumption ban and health department testing quickly sparked controversy within the local marijuana industry. Theresa Collins -- co-owner of Pot Luck Events, which is billed as a pot-friendly private event location -- said the ban could have unintended consequences.

"They're trying to take away the safe consumption location for our customers to use," Collins said. "What I see happening is a lot more public consumption, which I think is a public safety concern."

She also said pesticide testing would "place a lot of undue cost" on retailers.