Cannabis use to stay private under Kenai proposal

Jun 5, 2019


The Kenai city council recently voted to not allow on site consumption of cannabis inside city limits. Now, it may take the formal step of banning it entirely.

When the council voted down adding new regulations to allow onsite consumption last month, no one testified who had plans to offer a space for it, but East Rip owner Ryan Tunseth offered some reasons to consider it anyway.

“I think it’s something worth doing. I think the liberty of being able to do something that’s legal and free should be allowed and so I’m in support of it for that reason.”

Council member Henry Knackstedt said he was on the fence, but leaning toward no based on that evident lack of demand.

“I really didn’t hear anything about need, just liberty and freedom and you get to do whatever you want and I get that and I appreciate that, but I didn’t hear anything about what the need in our community is. We don’t have a cruise ship coming in or a train. What is the need that we’d be fulfilling?”

In 2014, shortly after cannabis was made legal statewide, while municipalities were still wrestling with how to deal with it, Kenai had a cannabis club open to the public. That club didn’t survive long after the city put together its own regulations, but council member Bob Molloy wondered if the possibility of such a club or businesses wouldn’t be hindered by an outright ban. Because the reasons cited for allowing it in other places, like in Juneau, is that tourists are sort of stranded with no place to use a legal product.

“I spoke earlier about social need. And I remember...there were some people who tried to start a social club...and it eventually had to close and didn’t work out because  there was nothing really in regulation that supported that at the time. It’s unfortunate no one from that group came to speak to that. Is that a need that you see," Molloy asked Tunseth.

“I think the answer to that question is difficult because we came from, let’s say my generation, it was a public discourse of drinking. Animal House and the movies that we watched. I think there’s a change to that...that there may be younger people seeing this type of social activity as more desirable that drinking at the bar. So I don’t know that it’s absolutely there right now, but I think that it’s a social group that’s growing," Tunseth said.

The council will vote on that potential ban of onsite cannabis consumption when it meets Wednesday night at 6.