Kenai to consider onsite cannabis consumption

Apr 30, 2019


The Kenai City Council will consider whether to amend its cannabis laws this week. There’s an ordinance on the agenda that would allow for onsite consumption of cannabis products in licensed businesses.

The state Marijuana Control Board cleared the path for such a move earlier this year. The ordinance has already had a hearing before the Kenai Planning and Zoning Commission.

“The idea is you would have to have already obtained a permit for a retail marijuana store before applying for this onsite consumption endorsement," City Planner Elizabeth Appleby told the commission. She says businesses interested in applying for the endorsement and conditional use permit would have several standards to meet, with an eye toward public safety.

“Consumption would be limited to one gram per person. Tobacco concentrates, alcohol or marijuana not sold at the location would not be able to be consumed. Products would be consumed in an area separated from the rest of the store and there would be a smoke-free area for employees to be able to monitor the consumption. Outdoor consumption areas would have to be compatible with surrounding uses, have a sight-obscuring border and consider objections of property owners within 250 feet.”

The commission was interested in the parellels between onsite cannabis consumption and operations at a bar or restaurant. Everyone was interested to learn that alcohol establishments aren’t zoned for., specifically, but Council Member Bob Molloy says the big difference is that population dictates how many places you can go for a drink. That’s not the case for cannabis.

“Alcohol is regulated differently and also intensely at the state level. There are statutes that limit the number of state licenses, for example, bars and restaurants based on population. (It) doesn’t have anything to do with zones. Marijuana licenses are not regulated by population, they’re really limited by the market. Not to say they couldn’t be regulated by zone. Cities could certainly do that," Molloy said.

No one testified for or against recommending the ordinance be adopted by the city council, and the commission did just that, voting unanimously to pass it along, after making an amendment that would allow the city to dictate hours of operation. The council will have a public hearing on the matter at its meeting Wednesday at 6 p.m.