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North Pole Council Moves to Ban Public Consumption of Marijuana Within City

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With three weeks to go before the new state law legalizing personal use of marijuana goes into effect, the North Pole City Council voted Monday to advance two ordinances that would restrict the public use of pot in town and ban a dangerous method of processing it. But one council member worries one of the proposals goes too far.

Mayor Bryce Ward says the ordinance banning public pot consumption is needed to make it clear that smoking, eating or otherwise ingesting marijuana in public will be unacceptable when the law legalizing weed goes into effect.

“So I think it’s important that we take the lead on this, and really let people know that these are places that are not acceptable,” Ward said.

The ordinance is based on one drafted by the Municipality of Anchorage. It would set a hundred-dollar fine for ingesting marijuana in pretty much any place outside a home, including streets, sidewalks, schools, places of business, parking areas, convention centers, sports arenas, and parks, to name a few.

Councilman Tom McGhee objected to the list, saying it went too far and violated private property rights.

“I don’t think as a council we should be taking any position to try to control a business, or private ownership of an entity such as an apartment building, hotel or business,” McGhee said.

Councilwoman Sharron Hunter says city police Chief Steve Dutra and others have advised the council to specify as much as possible where pot use would be restricted.

“This is just defining the places that are considered examples of ‘public,’ ” Hunter said.

Ward says the ordinance protects consumption of marijuana at home.

“If you’re on your property, there’s nothing that says it’s illegal,” he said.

The mayor says he doesn’t think home-users should be concerned about a nuisance provision in the ordinance.

“I think for the majority of folks that will be consuming this – they will not be a nuisance for their neighbors,” he said.

McGhee raised other concerns, including whether the ordinance is consistent with the will of state voters who passed Ballot Measure 2 on Nov. 4.

“I do want us to be careful that we don’t regulate businesses, or private users, to encumber what the majority voted for,” he said.

The council voted to advance the ordinance, with McGhee dissenting, and another banning use of flammable substances to extract so-called hash oil, a marijuana concentrate.

Council members also OK’d a resolution asking the state to clarify the  law.

The council will hold another public hearing and consider final approval of the two ordinances during its Feb. 17th meeting.

Editor's note: This story was revised to clarify that Monday's votes were to advance the marijuana-related ordinances to a final public hearing and vote during the council's Feb. 17 meeting.

Tim has worked in the news business for over three decades, mainly as a newspaper reporter and editor in southern Arizona. Tim first came to Alaska with his family in 1967, and grew up in Delta Junction before emigrating to the Lower 48 in 1977 to get a college education and see the world.