City Council splits vote on allowing marijuana on the spit

Feb 27, 2018

Credit U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

An ordinance to allow the commercial marijuana industry to take root on the Homer Spit was introduced Monday by the Homer City Council.

The Cannabis Advisory Commission recommended that the council approve opening the spit to the industry late last summer and both the Advisory Planning and Port and Harbor Advisory commissions approved that recommendation before it made its way to the council.

If passed the ordinance would allow commercial marijuana businesses to set up shop on private property, but some council members fought against introducing the ordinance, questing whether it would lead to tourists consuming marijuana publically on the spit.

Council member Heath Smith was the most vocal opponent.

“If the goal is to capture our tourist industry, what needs to be answered is where can they legally purchase on the spit?” Smith questioned. “Because my understanding is the only place you can legally consume marijuana is in your home or if you’re an invited guest in someone else’s home. So, if there’s no legal place for them to consume what they purchase, we become complacent in not caring where they consume what they purchase.”

Council member Shelly Erickson also spoke against the move, citing fears that commercial marijuana on the spit could jeopardize federal dollars for expanding the harbor.

Council member Donna Aderhold brought the ordinance forward and argued that the council should at least approve the introduction of the proposal and let the public weigh in.

“This is something we chose a couple of years ago to pull off the table. The community is basically, through these commissions, asking us to put it back on the table,” Aderhold explained. “I’m introducing so the public can weigh in on it.”

Council member Rachel Lord echoed Aderhold, and she added that denying the ordinance on introduction would be ignoring the three commission’s work.

“If we’re going to have commissions and committees and they do work and put in time and they make recommendations to us, the idea of not introducing or allowing a public hearing to occur just doesn’t seem to respect the work that has happened,” Lord argued. “It is not saying we are going to pass it necessarily, but it does allow it to come before the people for their comments and their input.”

The council split its vote on the issue with council members Smith, Erickson and Tom Stroozas voting against the measure. Mayor Brian Zak cast his tie-breaking vote in favor of introducing the ordinance.

There will be a public hearing and final decision on the issue on March 12.