New Marijuana Restrictions Regulate Secondhand Smoke


In Alaska’s largest city, marijuana is now subject to the same rules limiting second-hand smoke from cigarettes. The move is a setback for legalization advocates in Anchorage, and leaves many regulatory questions unanswered.

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A 9-to-1 vote by the Assembly modified rules already on the books related to cigarette smoke, adding marijuana within pertinent lines of code. Anchorage already passed a measure banning public consumption, and the new vote extends restrictions to more buildings and businesses.

“I think this becomes a conundrum for people who are living in multi-unit apartment buildings,” said Assembly Member Paul Honeman, who believes the rule-change shores up common-sense courtesies. Single homes, or multi-unit buildings where no one is bothered by marijuana smoke are unlikely to be affected, Honeman added.

A person lighting up too close to an entry-way or a inside a hotel room where smoking is banned can now be written a $100 ticket. Since the February 24th change in marijuana’s legal status, Assembly members say they’ve gotten more complaints from constituents about smoke seeping through apartments, creating annoyances and serious problems for some tenants.

“(A) gentleman told me he had cancer, he was living on social security and disability, which was limiting his available options to rent. And then secondly, he was having some medical problems that were being worsened,” Honeman said. “Clearly if your smoke is getting from your apartment to a neighboring apartment, this ordinance may apply to that.”

The other major driver behind the measure is a tenant dispute involving an existing marijuana business.

Pot Luck Events, a marijuana-friendly events company exists in a bit of a legal gray zone as the state develops regulations for private clubs, and some have criticized the company for jumping the gun.

Much public testimony on the matter came from Pot Luck supporters, who say the space at 420 W. 3rd Avenue fills a need for a safe place to consume marijuana.

It is, however, located underneath a church, and right next door to Beacon Hill, a daycare center for foster children.

The frequent cannabis odor creates problems for many of the families served by Beacon, many of whom are coping with addiction, according to employee Cindy Adamson.

“They are trying to clean up their life and get it put back together,” Adamson said, explaining the smell of marijuana can act as a trigger, jeapordizing people’s treatment plans.

Adamson said the Pot Luck owners have been good neighbors, but the shared building is a bad fit for the different tenant groups involved.

It’s not clear if Pot Luck will have to close down shop because of the new measure. The second-hand smoke language bans smoking lighted tobacco or marijuana, but whether that applies to consumption methods like vaping or dabing–which don’t involve a flame–remains to be seen. The municipality expects smoking marijuana indoors to eventually be handled by a conditional use permit the state sets up down the line.

While the Anchorage measure is broad, it’s passage is understandable, according Bruce Schulte of the Coalition for Responsible Cannabis Legislation.

“The real take-away from tonight,” Schulte said after the vote,  “is folks really do need to sit back and wait until the state finishes the mandated regulatory process in November, and then create business models.”

The biggest losers, Schulte added, are the business owners who now have 90 days to update their no-smoking signs to include marijuana alongside cigarettes.