Soldotna postpones pot ordinance vote

  • Wednesday, February 25, 2015 11:02pm
  • News

While marijuana is now legal in Alaska, the city of Soldotna is waiting a little longer to clarify some city laws regarding the drug.

On Wednesday, the Soldotna City Council postponed the vote on ordinance 2015-004 until March 25. The vote was postponed in order to have all council members be present, as well as have time to hold a work session regarding the ordinance.

If passed, the ordinance would outlaw the use of marijuana in public places, as well as inside motorized vehicles including cars, boats and planes. It would also designate the city council as the local regulatory authority.

The ordinance also defines “marijuana” to include all parts of the plant of the plant, as well as seeds, oils, extracts and several other products derived from the plant.

One of the most contentious parts of the ordinance is its definition of “in public” which is defined as, “in or upon any government-owned property, as well as any place that the public or a substantial group of persons has access.”

The ordinance goes on to list numerous examples of public places ranging from waterways and shorelines to trails and streets.

If the city fails to change its definition of public in the future, city law will be guided by the state’s Alcohol Beverage Control Board’s emergency regulatory decision on Tuesday.

That regulation defines “in public” to mean “in a place to which the public or a substantial group of persons has access and includes highways, transportation facilities, schools, places of amusement or business, parks, playgrounds, prisons, and hallways, lobbies, and other portions of apartment houses and hotels not constituting rooms or apartments for actual residence.”

Soldotna City Manager Mark Dixson said he wasn’t impressed with the ABC Board’s definition.

“I don’t think that gives our police officers or law enforcement any guidance as to what ‘in public’ means,” Dixson said.

The motion to postpone the vote was made by council member Keith Baxter.

“We’ve received a lot of public testimony,” Baxter said. “More than we have on most issues. With a third of the council absent tonight, I have reservations voting on it tonight.”

Council members Regina Daniels and Linda Murphy were on excused absences on Wednesday.

While one ordinance was postponed, another, ordinance 2015-005 passed 4-0. It amends the definition of “smoking” in an eating establishment to include electronic smoking devices, vaporizer cigarettes and marijuana.

Jenny Olendorff, who works for Peninsula Smokefree Partnership, attended the council meeting to support the ordinance.

“I support amending the definition of smoking to include e-cigarettes and vaping devices simply because we don’t know what’s in them,” Olendorff said. “They’re not currently federally regulated.”

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