Cannabis shop hours debate heats up in Kenai

Sep 19, 2019

       It won't be formally addressed until its next regular meeting, but last night the Kenai City Council heard from a couple cannabis store owners about proposed restrictions to hours of operation.

Ron Isaacs of The Gardens on the Spur Highway in Kenai was against any limiting of store hours beyond what the state requires. He pointed out that only the hours of marijuana stores in surrounding jurisdictions were considered when coming up with the proposed restrictions.

         "I know some things were brought in here about the different surrounding areas. Now, Seward was brought up, but what wasn't brought up was they close their bars at the same time. They have the same exact hours. There's no difference," Isaacs said. "And Homer wasn't brought up. Homer also has a 5 a.m. on the retail shops, and the bars are 5 a.m."

Kenai City Councilman Jim Glendenning explained how the proposed hours were arrived at.

            "Previous testifiers before the Planning and Zoning Commission suggested, and some may be present in the room, that two o'clock would be okay to comport with the surrounding areas that have hours. That way no one would be put to an advantage or a disadvantage. So that's the approach that I heard."

Ryan Tunseth of East Rip on Frontage Road was hoping for more flexibility in the rules.

"I will never be open at 2 a.m. I personally don't see the need to and I have really no desire to. And I trust that in making decisions you look for opportunities to grow the businesses that are here. Because  there doesn't, at least in my opinion, seem to exist these vacuums out there where we can just grab up economy. Potentially in the black market marijuana world, there's some but nowhere else," Tunseth said. "And so if we're going to make decisions that say, we're not going to allow edibles, because we don't need it, we're going to restrict these license hours because we don't need it. If the licensees are saying, 'hey, there's economy to it, for me, there is a reason I think I can make money,' then it should be considered and it shouldn't be something we should take off the table."

Isaacs defended the respectability of cannabis stores and how much less trouble they are than bars.

             "We've never had a call by the police about shops. I know how many calls each weekend the bars get, and the police have to make regular rounds. And so I just, I don't see why this (regulation) is," Isaacs said. "It's kind of a waste of time again, and if it does go through, then there's still going to be an argument. It's not going to end here, you know. Our business is not going to roll over and let the bars go on till five."

The ordinance restricting cannabis store hours will have a public hearing at the next council meeting on Oct. 2.