Smoking tobacco in public establishments is against the law in Alaska. But the state’s no-smoking law that passed one year ago has an intentional loophole for marijuana, and communities such as Fairbanks and Anchorage have used that loophole.
The City and Borough of Juneau is the latest to approve a new ordinance allowing onsite marijuana consumption as long as the pot smoking is done in an outdoor area.
The Juneau Assembly weighed how the ordinance somewhat contradicts the intent of Senate Bill 63, which was signed into law in July of 2018 generally prohibiting smoking in places like stores, bars, and restaurants. The American Lung Association says smoking is unsafe, whether it’s tobacco, marijuana, or anything else.
The new Juneau ordinance conforms to state regulations requiring the marijuana smoking to be done in a free-standing marijuana retail store, and the area must have a separate ventilation system or an outdoor consumption area that is isolated. Those on-site consumption rules were developed by the Marijuana Control Board over the past year.
Having a cannabis lounge option in Juneau will give tourists and others a place to smoke out of the public eye — and lungs. Currently, marijuana smoking is commonly seen and smelled in downtown Juneau on the streets, especially after hours. Proponents hope to slow down that practice.
The ordinance passed six to two, with Assembly members Mary Becker and Loren Jones voting against it.