Cannabis Committee recommends opening spit to commercial marijuana

Aug 25, 2017

Current zoning map for commercial marijuana in Homer.
Credit Courtesy of the City of Homer

The Homer Cannabis Advisory Committee recommended that the city open up the Homer Spit to commercial cannabis Thursday. It also wants the city to prohibit smoking at marijuana establishments if the state approves on-site consumption later this fall.

Both recommendations unanimously passed the committee, and each will be forwarded onto the Homer City Council.

Committee member David Lewis, who also sits on the council, said he would rather the committee hold its recommendation opening up the spit to commercial marijuana until a retail business sets up shop.

“We do have that one that is pending for Ocean Drive and we see how that goes,” he explained.

Lewis said he supports the measure, but doesn’t think it would pass the council before making it to the Planning and Zoning Commission. Lewis believes that after a retail shop shows it can operate responsibly, the council may favor opening up the spit.

Vice Chairwoman Carrie Harris pushed for the recommendation despite Lewis’ comments.  

“I don’t see any issues with the cannabis commission actually supporting cannabis on the spit. That’s what we’re actually here for,” she said. “We’re not here to be a road block. We are here because the voters asked us to be.”

Homer adopted zoning codes for the commercial pot industry in early 2016.  Lewis noted the spit was set off limits over concerns that tourists would bring marijuana onto cruise ships, the ferry and other vessels.

Currently, marijuana operations are allowed to do business near downtown and in the southeast corner of town, along Ocean and Kachemak Drive. There are also a few other areas scattered in between.

In other business, the committee also recommended that the city not allow smoking at marijuana establishments. No states in the U.S. have legalized on-site, but the state’s Marijuana Control Board is currently taking public comment on a proposal that would make Alaska the first state to do so. The board is set to revisit the issue in late October.

Committee member and Police Chief Mark Robl pushed for the recommendation. Robl spoke with state board members, and he said there’s no air system that would adequately filter the smoke.

“So, my concern here is that we could have an incident of some type inside a place where there’s a lot of smoking going on. Police and firefighters have to go in, and they’re going to be expose to the second hand smoke,” Robl explained. “They’re going to come out of that room, or could possibly come out of that room, with some level of intoxication.”

He said the department would be required to send exposed officers home until they test clean, which means other officers would have to cover them, driving up overtime costs.

However, Robl noted vaping marijuana would not pose a risk for officers. Vape devices heat marijuana without burning it, releasing its psychoactive components through vapor. The committee approved Robl’s recommendation with an amendment, allowing consumers to vape.

Currently, there are no commercial marijuana operations in city limits, but there is one cultivation operation moving through the state application process. Homer’s first proposed marijuana retail store is up for approval next month.

Anchorage resident Lloyd Stiassny want’s to open up his shop, Uncle Herb’s, on Ocean Drive. Stiassny plans to open another retail store under the same name in Anchorage in the coming weeks. If approved, Stiassny hopes to have his Homer store up and running by Thanksgiving.

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