Should marijuana be regulated like alcohol? Or like cigarettes? Or in some altogether new way? Those are some of the decisions facing the City of Sitka, and they have to be settled soon.
The personal use of marijuana will become legal in Alaska on February 24. That’s the result of Ballot Measure 2, which passed in November and legalizes the recreational use of marijuana by people over age 21. (The Alaska Beverage Control board has a list of frequently asked questions on the legalization.)
At Tuesday night’s (1-13-15) meeting of the Sitka Assembly, City Attorney Robin Koutchak announced a town hall on January 19, to hear from Sitkans how, exactly, they want the city to handle the change.
“Personal use of marijuana becomes legal, but public consumption is illegal,” Koutchak said. “The state statute did not define what public consumption is. So, we’re struggling a little bit, and we’re looking at different things. Is this going to be like alcohol, where you can’t walk down a city sidewalk and drink alcohol with an open container? [Or] are we going to go a little bit more toward cigarette smoking?”
Koutchak pointed out that nearly 70% of Sitka voters cast yes ballots on Measure 2.
“So we really feel that there’s a huge group of people between the Cheech and Chong and the Reefer Madness crowd,” Koutchak said. “That there’s a whole group of people that are really middle of the road on it. And we want to find out where those boundaries are within our community.”
The town hall meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. this coming Monday, January 19, in Harrigan Centennial Hall. The meeting will only address the personal use of marijuana — the state will be drafting regulations to govern the commercial sale of marijuana later this year.
City staff plan to incorporate ideas from the town hall into an ordinance to present to the Sitka Assembly at its meeting on January 27.