The Kenai City Council on Wednesday voted unanimously to prohibit drive-thru marijuana operations in the city.
The vote comes less than one month after council members were presented with updated regulations from the State of Alaska. The state, during the COVID-19 pandemic, allowed marijuana establishments to operate drive-thru or walk-up windows so customers wouldn’t have to enter the establishment to make a purchase. The state in August made that change permanent.
Kenai City Attorney Scott Bloom told council members in September that they could either take no action or they could change city code such that marijuana drive-thrus and walk-up windows were prohibited. Kenai’s Planning and Zoning Commission requested a moratorium on such operations until it could review the updated state rules.
Multiple council members during the same meeting expressed interest in sponsoring legislation that would write into city code restrictions on marijuana drive-thru and walk-up windows. The ordinance passed by council members Wednesday, sponsored by Kenai Vice Mayor James Baisden and city council members Teea Winger and Deborah Sounart, cited public safety.
“Concerns for public safety and practical enforceability of the new regulations outweigh any public benefit,” the ordinance says.
Winger said during Wednesday’s meeting that she has specific concerns about how the city would enforce state rules surrounding drive-thru and walk-up windows, such as that establishments verify the age of every passenger in a vehicle going through a drive-thru.
“I don’t feel that we have an accessibility issue and this would just open up a lot of loopholes that we really shouldn’t be addressing,” Winger said.
Sounart said she would be concerned about someone purchasing products from a walk-up window and then consuming it on the business premises, particularly in the winter.
“Young kids make some harebrained decisions,” she said. “I would like to see them have a second chance. Mother Nature is not forgiving up here. I just see somebody walking away from the window and not making it to where they’re supposed to go.”
Council members amended the ordinance to include the recommendation from the Kenai Planning and Zoning Commission, which recommended that council pass the legislation.
Wednesday’s Kenai City Council meeting is available to stream on the city’s YouTube channel.
Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at email@example.com.