Ketchikan council votes to ban pot sales

The Ketchikan City Council on Thursday voted to ban the commercial sale of marijuana within city limits. Mayor Lew Williams III requested the issue be brought before the Council. Williams says he doesn’t oppose the sale of certain items but is concerned with oils, concentrates and edibles. marijuana

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“Oils and the edibles, I think, are just made for a younger audience. For this community, I am dead against having that sold within the City of Ketchikan. The other stuff – they can grow it, they can smoke it, it’s legalized in the state, it doesn’t inhibit anybody’s usage.”

Under current state law, municipalities can opt out of commercial sales completely, but, if they approve sales, they cannot restrict the types of products sold.

Councilmember Dick Coose made the motion to prohibit commercial marijuana sales within the City of Ketchikan. That motion was seconded by Councilmember Bob Sivertsen.

Coose says he sees no benefit to the City or the people.

“And they say, ‘What do you mean, don’t you believe or trust the voters?’ And I say, sometimes voters don’t always get it right. This is one of them which I think is wrong because there are too many dangers out there. If people are going to smoke it, they’ve got that opportunity. They can grow it in their house and they can share it. But we don’t have to make it readily available, especially the edibles and the other things.”

Coose says if people want to smoke pot, they already can do so. Cultivation for personal use is now legal. He says he’s concerned that regulations do not allow a municipality to control THC concentrations. THC is the chemical that gives marijuana most of its psychological effects.  Coose added that he does not believe the City would make much money from sales.

Sivertsen made an amendment to the initial motion. Rather than making a final decision, he suggested the Council recommend to the local Ad Hoc Marijuana Advisory Committee that commercial marijuana sales be prohibited.  Sivertsen says a vote at this time was premature since the State is still revising regulations.  He too expressed concerns about concentrates.

Councilmember Judy Zenge says voters approved the use of marijuana and their wishes should be honored, with restrictions.

“Now Bob (Sivertsen) might be talking to the 920 people who voted no, but apparently I’ve been speaking to the 1154 people who voted yes. Marijuana is legal and there are going to be some people that are going to need some help with that. Just like folks who have alcohol dependency were going to end up with people that have pot dependency.”

Zenge says not everyone who uses marijuana will become dependent on it, just like everyone who drinks does not become an alcoholic.  She says taxes can help address dependency issues. Zenge also says she doesn’t understand why people oppose retail stores because the products have to be tested and THC concentrations reported.

The Council rejected Sivertsen’s amendment to send a recommendation to the Marijuana Advisory Committee rather than make a final decision.

The Council then voted on the main motion to prohibit commercial marijuana sales within city limits.

The motion passed 5-2 with Councilmembers Coose, Sivertsen, Dave Kiffer, Janalee Gage and Julie Isom voting in favor of prohibiting commercial sales. Councilmembers Zenge and KJ Harris voted against the motion.

Harris is the City’s representative on the Ad Hoc Marijuana Advisory Committee. He asked if he should continue to attend committee meetings given the Council’s decision to prohibit sales. Mayor Williams says he would leave that decision up to Harris. Kiffer says nothing is ever final and having a City presence on the committee would be beneficial.

Also Thursday night the Council postponed adopting the Fiscal Year 2016 budget. Additional budget meetings are scheduled for December 8th, 9th and 14th.  The next regular meeting of the Ketchikan City Council is December 17th.  All meetings begin at 7:00 pm in City Council Chambers.

Maria Dudzak is a reporter at KRBD in Ketchikan.

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