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First In The Nation Cannabis Cafe Gives Doubts About Drivers

The local government with the authority to endorse the nation’s first on-site cannabis café did not. Last night, the Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly voted down a “no protest” motion, on licensing “GoodSinse LLC” to let customers smoke at the marijuana retailer. 

It sounds kind of backwards; a vote of no protest failed. But the process requires local governments to weigh in on licensing cannabis establishments.

Last week (Thursday Jan. 23, 2020) the state Marijuana Control Board conditionally approved the state’s first licenses for on-site consumption cafés, Cannabis Corner in Ketchikan and GoodSinse in Fairbanks. State law prohibits people from smoking marijuana in public. So allowing people to consume cannabis in an enclosed business is a new thing. In fact, the Ketchikan and Fairbanks stores would be the first places in the country to allow consumption on-site.

The state board gives approval, but the law recognizes local input, asking municipalities to endorse or protest the licensing.

The Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly met January 6 and waived its right to protest he state license application from Cannabis Corner. Thursday night was Fairbanks’ turn.

Only one person commented at the public hearing Thursday night. Lance Roberts regularly opposes cannabis access at public meetings. He told the assembly on-site consumption would cause more vehicle accidents, even with designated drivers.

“In a bar it is not a problem, because it’s a liquid, and they can drink their grape juice or whatever, and do just fine. You’re going to have a harder time getting the designated drivers, and they are going to be in that smoking room, and they are going to be impaired also.”

That concern was picked up by several assembly members, like Leah Berman-Williams and Frank Tomaszewski (tom-ah-CHEV-ski).

“It’s the same concerns that I have when people go to a bar. I wish that we had a mechanism to determine how impaired someone is when they pulled over for a DUI, when the intoxicant is cannabis and not alcohol.”

 “Right now there is no way to figure out how high a person is. The police have no way to enforce that, as far as the intoxication level of a person who is going to get the wheel of a car.”

Dan Peters, who owns Good Since, LLC said he would rely on his employees’ experience with cannabis products to keep customers safe. He says the stakes are high.

 “We’re going to do our best as the very first on-site consumption to follow all the regulations and make sure that things are as spot-on as can be. ‘Cause we know we’ve got eyes watching us as it goes forward. First in the nation, I think it’s fairly historic for Fairbanks.”

Before Assembly debate began, Marna Sanford and Christopher Quist left their seats due to conflicts of interest. That left only seven members and changed the arithmetic for voting.

Three assembly members, Aaron Lojewski, (La-JIS-ki) Frank Tomaszewski, (Tom-ah-CHEV-ski) and Jimi Cash, who shared their normal “hands off” approach to businesses, said the possibility of intoxicated drivers changed their votes.

“The Libertarian in me says ‘get the government out of my life; let freedom ring,’ right? But the parent, the responsible adult, has concerns about public safety.”

So when Presiding Officer Matt Cooper called the vote, there were not the five required to pass the motion.

“Motion to file protest fails, four/three.”

So what does that mean, a vote of no protest failed? It means the borough will respond to the state Marijuana Control Board without a protest nor an endorsement of the on-site consumption license.