Council introduces ordinance that would allow marijuana sales on Homer Spit

Retail marijuana stores making their way to the Homer Spit is once again on the table at City Hall.

In a tie vote broken by Mayor Bryan Zak, the council introduced an ordinance at their Monday meeting that would allow just that. The Cannabis Advisory Commission had recommended that the council open up the Spit to retail marijuana establishments in August 2017. The ordinance introduced would allow the sale of commercial marijuana products on the Homer Spit, an area where thus far that has not been allowed.

In planning terms, the Spit is the city’s Marine Commercial District. When the city was drafting its regulations for commercial marijuana, it did not include that district along with those where marijuana retail facilities would be allowed. Right now, the only districts where marijuana stores can set up shop are in Homer’s central business district, general commercial districts one and two, and the East End mixed use district.

Heath Smith voiced his opposition to the ordinance.

“If the goal is to capture our tourist industry, what needs to be answered is where can you legally consume when you purchase on the Spit?” Smith said. “Because my understanding is the only place you can legally consume marijuana is in your home, or if you’re an invited guest, in someone else’s home. So, if there’s no legal place for them to consume what they purchase, we become complicit in not caring where they consume what they purchase.”

Council member Shelly Erickson also spoke against the ordinance, saying the city had previously taken the stance that it would see how retail marijuana stores fared in the districts where they’re allowed before opening the Spit to them. She also expressed concern that allowing commercial marijuana on the Spit could jeopardize federal funding when it comes to expanding the city’s harbor. She cited tensions at the federal level over marijuana regulations that are at odds with state regulations.

“We’re kind of in uncharted waters at this point,” Erickson said.

Council members Rachel Lord and Donna Aderhold advocated for at least introducing the ordinance to give people time and opportunity to comment.

“I really do believe that we need to allow the community to weigh in at a public hearing,” Aderhold said. ” … Introducing it is not passing it.”

Lord spoke to the groundwork laid by the city’s Advisory Planning Commission, the Cannabis Advisory Commission and the Port and Harbor Advisory Commission.

“The Planning Commission looked at this, and they looked at it with an eye of planning,” she said. “… If we are going to have commissions and committees, and they do work and they put in time and they make recommendations to us, the idea of not even introducing and allowing a public hearing to occur just doesn’t seem to really respect the work that has happened.”

The ordinance will be up for public hearing at the council’s March 12 meeting.

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