FAIRBANKS — Proposed legislation in Fairbanks would make the city's first private pot club an illegal facility.
The operators of The Higher Calling, which opened in November, could face a misdemeanor charge and a civil fine of $1,000 per day if the ordinance is approved, The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported.
Members at the club pay $10 per day or $25 per month to consume marijuana at the facility, which has been licensed by the state of Alaska and the city.
Councilman David Pruhs, who sponsored the ordinance, said stand-alone pot clubs violate state law, which prohibits the use of marijuana in public. However, Pruhs said he supports state-licensed consumption rooms attached to retail marijuana stores, which the state Marijuana Control Board decided to allow this year.
"You can't have public use with a business," Pruhs said. "The Marijuana Control Board will not be issuing a stand-alone marijuana club license. (The Higher Calling) jumped the gun. I think they are in violation of the law."
Opponents of the proposal say banning private, membership-only clubs infringes on the First Amendment right to peaceably assemble.
"I just think that stripping everyone's rights away because of one business that they don't like is extreme," said Frank Berardi, chairman of the Coalition for Responsible Cannabis Legislation. "If people are going with their own cannabis to smoke, it's a lawful activity."
Brandon Emmett, the Fairbanks-based member of the regulatory board, said the board tried to establish a prohibition of pot clubs in state regulations but decided against after consulting with the Alaska Department of Law. The board eventually pulled any reference to cannabis clubs from state regulations, he said.
"It's going to be up to the Legislature and the local governments to define what a club is and what they can do," Emmett said.
Marcus Mooers, who owns The Higher Calling with his wife, issued a statement pointing to the benefits of allowing a cannabis club to operate in Fairbanks.
"We sincerely hope that the City Council will see the economic potential and allow for consumption venues downtown," Mooers wrote. "Clubs like ours will bring in additional tourism directly to downtown and add to the economic diversity of Fairbanks."