The Anchorage Assembly last night tippy-toed around the question of whether pot stores should be able to offer smoking areas within the city and opted, instead, to have the public decide.
That appears to be just what proponents of the marijuana industry wanted.
Assembly members John Weddleton, Meg Zaletel, Forrest Dunbar, Felix Rivera, Pete Petersen, Christopher Constant, and Austin Quinn-Davidson voted to hand the question to voters. Crystal Kennedy, Kameron Perez-Verdia and Fred Dyson voted against.
The push to smoke in dope stores is odd only because beginning in 2007, tobacco smoking was banned in all public places in Anchorage, including bars, in the city’s popular Secondhand Smoke Control Ordinance.
Then, in 2018, then-Gov. Bill Walker signed into law the Smokefree Alaska bill that prohibits smoking in enclosed public places and workplaces, including buses and taxis, stores, bars and restaurants.
Add to that, smoking marijuana in public areas, including parks, now is forbidden in Anchorage and across the state.
Why are we even talking about dope smoking in public businesses?
Well, proponents worry that some in Anchorage cannot smoke pot in their rented residences or that tourists have no place to smoke. The city does not allow tourists – or anybody else, for that matter — to smoke tobacco in public places. Why should anybody be able to smoke dope in public places in direct violation of Anchorage’s anti-smoking ordinance, not to mention the state’s strictures?
Where are is the concerns about secondhand smoke that raged in the run-up to barring smoking in public places in the city and across the state? Why should any of the rules or regulations for marijuana be different than those enacted for tobacco?
In the wake of the Assembly’s timid hand-off of those questions to voters, many are asking those very questions – and wondering why our legislative leaders dodged answering.
Proponents who wished for a public vote on April 7 may, indeed, come to rue the day.