City council passes Nome’s first commercial marijuana regulation

Marijuana for sale at a dispensary in California. (Photo: Dank Depot via Flickr Creative Commons)
Marijuana for sale at a dispensary in California. (Photo: Dank Depot via Flickr Creative Commons)

Earlier this week, Nome’s city council passed its first set of commercial marijuana regulations.

When the topic has been brought up at past meetings, the Council focused far more on understanding the basics of the state’s regulations, rather than working out the fine details of their own. That’s because, even with the recent legalization of commercial marijuana, the barriers to actually transporting it legally to anywhere off Alaska’s road system are significant.

Travel by air is out of the question, because it’s federally regulated, so the council has been left hypothesizing about transportation via snow machines and dog sleds. Another option would be Nome grown, but that also has it’s challenges, as a licensed cultivation center would need to be built, along with on site testing. Councilman Matt Culley addressed those challenge’s at least month’s meeting.

“It’s going to be very difficult for Nome to see a cultivation and distributor,” suggested Culley. “Someone can apply for distributor, but how do you get it, since it’s got to be labeled so thoroughly?”

“However,” Culley said, “we cannot neglect the fact that it may make it here.”

The Marijuana Control Board tried addressing those barriers last week, proposing a rule that would allow “alternative means of testing,” if location and transportation limitations make it impractical, but the Department of Law denied struck down that request.

Back in Nome, initial discussions at this week’s meeting were cloaked in skepticism, as councilman Louie Green questioned whether this was basically an empty ordinance. City Manager Tom Moran responded:

There’s a fine schedule associated, there is a prohibition against the off duty police officer conduct, there is a new definition of marijuana accessories added, but I think your point is well taken, that this is a very skeletal one that can be added onto in the future.”

According to the regulation, no off-duty law enforcement officer can enter a marijuana establishment with a firearm, unless that officer is undercover. The regulation also prohibits the sale, barter, or exchange of any items in a marijuana establishment by anyone but the person licensed to do so.

And finally, the regulation addresses the hours of operation. Those are generally the same as the ones associated with establishments that have liquor licenses.

But there are a few exceptions. For example, hours are extended from the day the first Iditarod dog team arrives until the day of the Iditarod Banquet. They’re also extended from the first day of the Iditarod Basketball Tournament until the day of the Iditarod Basketball Banquet, and from the first day of the Iditarod Dart and Pool Tournaments until the tournament’s championship games.

Other days of exception include New Years Eve, Super Bowl Sunday, and the Sunday of the Bering Sea Open Golf Tournament.

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Emily Russell, Alaska Public Media - Anchorage
Emily Russell is the voice of Alaska morning news as Alaska Public Media’s Morning News Host and Producer. Originally from the Adirondacks in upstate New York, Emily moved to Alaska in 2012. She skied her way through three winters in Fairbanks, earning her Master’s degree in Northern Studies from UAF. Emily’s career in radio started in Nome in 2015, reporting for KNOM on everything from subsistence whale harvests to housing shortages in Native villages. She then worked for KCAW in Sitka, finally seeing what all the fuss with Southeast, Alaska was all about. Back on the road system, Emily is looking forward to driving her Subaru around the region to hike, hunt, fish and pick as many berries as possible. When she’s not talking into the mic in the morning, Emily can be found reporting from the peaks above Anchorage to the rivers around Southcentral.