Council Delays Vote on Disturbing-the-Peace Ordinance for Pot Consumption

Apr 7, 2015

The Fairbanks City Council decided Monday to delay action on a proposal to add a provision in the city code to include complaints of marijuana smoke as a disturbing the peace charge. The council members decided to consider other types of odors that also could be included as nuisances.

Councilman David Pruhs says now that marijuana can legally be consumed, police will be getting complaints about the odor of pot, especially if it’s being smoked. Pruhs says that’s why he proposed adding language to the disturbing-the-peace section of the City Code to include marijuana consumption as a nuisance.

“If you’re out smoking something on your back deck, and it’s wafting over to the neighbors, and he asks you not to do it, 99 percent of the people are going to stop,” he said.

Pruhs says if a neighbor-to-neighbor fails to resolve the dispute, the proposed ordinance would authorize police to cite a marijuana consumer for disturbing the peace, and impose a $100 fine, for refusing to ease up.

“So this gives the police officer a tool in his toolbox to come over and say, ‘Y’know, we asked you. I’m asking you now. And so it’s a hundred-dollar fine.”

Pruhs’ ordinance was up for a second reading and adoption, and the council appeared inclined to support the measure – until they heard from the only person who spoke during the public hearing. Local marijuana advocate Frank Turney told council members that the ordinance unfairly focuses on the odor of pot. Turney says there are many other odors that also could be considered a nuisance.

That got Councilman Jerry Cleworth thinking that the council should hold off voting on the proposed ordinance until the members can talk further about it.

“We’ve had a lot of complaints about odors from animals and people who don’t clean up their yards and things of this nature,” Cleworth said. “And when people would call with complaints like that, we really had nothing on the books to deal with that.”

The council voted 6-0 to postpone a vote until after this month’s finance committee meeting.