Econ 919: The pros and cons of on-site cannabis consumption

Mar 22, 2019


When the State of Alaska approved on-site consumption of marijuana in cannabis stores, it shifted the onus to local municipalities, which can choose to further regulate it. This week the Kenai City Council took the first steps to do just that, tasking the city attorney with drawing up a draft ordinance and looping in the planning and zoning commission.

But some members and at least one store owner aren’t convinced on-site consumption is going to be the next big thing, despite Alaska being the first state to legalize it.

Ryan Tunseth, owner of East Rip Cannabis, addressed the council on the subject.

“I thought it would be worth at least showing up and just sort of weighing in my thoughts and maybe A few things that might lend some perspective about the issue. Of course, the onsite endorsement applies to retail stores," he said. "I own a retail store within the city limits, and it's not something that I'm going to be trying to do. And really just because I don't think the compatibility for my location is something that will work. 

“And so it's not initially something that that I that I have desire to do or plan to do. Personally, the that I feel like it should be allowed. Because it's sort of a liberty thing. Like if you have something that's legal, you should be able to, you know, exercise that," Tunseth said. "And so I'm not going to necessarily advocate for it or against it either way, but I do feel like it is something that should be allowed. And I would say keep that in mind, that I say that thinking because it was actually a pretty well crafted document. What it does, is it limit consumption quite a bit, no concentrates. It limits the consumption you can have of flower to one gram a day, which is essentially a joint. Most joints I sell come in one gram or half gram increments. And, and so it has very low limits. 

“But it also comes with a pretty robust set of requirements, ventilation systems, separate areas, areas where the employees can be away from smoke, areas where you monitor it," he said. "And so I think what it actually will be is an answer for areas that needed it. Areas that had cruise ship passengers, places that just get inundated with people, and they had the option of smoking needed to and somewhere to go. And we'll also sort of satisfy this ability to maybe sample products before they're in there because of that low dosage. And, of course, the other requirements that are in there are restrictive against things like happy hours and games and stuff like that. So I think to view it in the context that what you'll see is smoking lounges and areas where people are hanging out smoking marijuana; I think it will be much more transient than that. and I really don't see it as a viable business model to be a smoking lounge for somebody that's in the business. 

“Selling grams is great. Selling 10ths of grams is not something I’m necessarily interested in,” Tunseth added.

City Councilman Henry Knackstedt asked Tunseth for more details on how a smoking room might work.

“You know, you said it was maybe not real viable, you know, it would be more in a more transient place. You mentioned cruise ships and all that (but) for the city of Kenai, because that's our concern, do you see it to be at all viable for this type for consumption based on how you understand the regulations that somebody would actually do that here?,” Knackstedt asked.

“I think it would be viable. I think it's something that would work certainly be something you could add on to a standalone retail and it would work. I don't necessarily see it as something that's going to generate a whole lot of profit," Tunseth replied. "If it was something that I would apply to my business, I would see it more as a sales tool to sell other types of marijuana that you could come over to this area try that one if you liked it bought that one. As a model of being like a smoking lounge or a recreational area personally just don't see it.”

While agreeing that the city’s Planing and Zoning Commission should tackle the issue, Councilman Tim Navarre said he didn’t want to see an ordinance go there do die, hoping that the rules could be promulgated in an expedient fashion.



Our number this week is 2 — that’s how many chances we get to talk to officials about the state budget. Kenai Rep. Gary Knopp is bringing colleagues from the House Majority to the Soldotna Sports Center on Saturday evening, while on Monday evening Governor Mike Dunleavy is making a presentation at the Cannery Lodge, sponsored by the Koch Brother’s group, “Americans for Prosperity.”