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North Pole OKs Public Pot Use Restrictions, Private Property ‘Nuisance’ Limits


The North Pole City Council voted Tuesday to restrict the consumption of marijuana in public. The council members debated whether, and how much, the ordinance should limit marijuana use at businesses and on private property. But they decided against adding specific restrictions against use on private property.

Like he did two weeks ago, when the council first considered the ordinance banning public pot use, Councilman Tom McGhee again raised many concerns over how the measure would be enforced.

McGhee presented several smoking devices during the meeting that he says were loaned to him by a local smokeshop proprietor and that he says make his point on how difficult, if not impossible, it would be for business owners and other laymen to identify and determine whether such a device is being used for pot.

“This is a cigarette designed specifically to smoke a herb of any type that could be carried in this little unit right here,” he said, holding a container.

McGhee says the devices and other odorless methods of marijuana consumption such as pot-infused edibles, will make it hard for businesses to comply with the ordinance.

He moved to amend it to delete businesses from a list of that defines public places where pot could not be consumed. And to delete language that requires a marijuana consumer to take “reasonable precautions” to ensure the consumption does not create a nuisance for neighbors or passers-by.

“It’s one thing to say we don’t want you to consume the product of choice outside the privacy of your home,” he said. “But it’s another to pretend that we have any ability to enforce it.”

That triggered more than an hour of debate over what constitutes a nuisance. Councilman Michael Welch asked City Police Chief Steve Dutra to weigh in on how he might define it.

“I think if there’s a large party outside and everybody’s smoking out in the backyard and there’s a huge amount of smoke drifting into the neighbors – y’know that may be something that would be considered a nuisance,” he said.

Dutra says there would be many other situations in which pot consumption may be considered a nuisance, and he says the word needs to be defined for legal purposes.

Councilwoman Elizabeth Holm offered amendments to specify the consumption as a visible or odorous nuisance, or even a disruption to a neighbor or passer-bye’s “mental tranquility.” Holm likened the ordinance to others that set limits on loud music and parties that continue on late into the night.

“You have a right to smoke marijuana on your property,” she said. “But we also want to protect the bordering properties, to make sure it’s a pleasant situation for everybody.”

Mayor Bryce Ward cautioned councilmembers against overreaching with their amendments, and encouraged them to stick with the language that City Attorney Zane Wilson had approved.

In the end, the council defeated both McGhee’s and Holm’s amendments, and approved the ordinance as it was presented, 6-to-1, with McGhee dissenting.

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.