Cannabis Industry Update

A marijuana leaf in the vegetative room at Alaska Cannabis Cultivators Monday morning, June 5, 2017. On-site consumption was approved at the Fairbanks City Council meeting in a 4-2 vote Monday, April 22, 2019.

The Fairbanks City Council voted unanimously Monday night to waive any protest of the application of marijuana dispensary The Fairbanks Cut to host on-site consumption at its facility, once the facility gets a certificate of occupancy. The Fairbanks Cut would be the first facility in Fairbanks to host legal on-site consumption of marijuana.

The Fairbanks Cut’s application was rejected by the Marijuana Control Board last month, as there was some contention over the meaning of “freestanding building.” Board members were split down the middle over the discussion, leading to a negative ruling. There are only four members currently on the Marijuana Control Board, as a fifth person has not yet been appointed.

Lily Bosshart, representing The Fairbanks Cut as an owner, asserted that the company chose the location of the facility with on-site consumption in mind, and felt it met the requirements for on-site consumption. The company began the appeal process right away. The decision would normally be evaluated in the Alaska Court system, though The Fairbanks Cut is hoping for expedited adjudication.

Certificates of occupancy can take anywhere from several weeks to a year, according to City Clerk Danyielle Snyder. Since construction is relatively simple — they are putting in a door — Bosshart said she believes the process will not take long for The Fairbanks Cut.

The Marijuana Control Board will meet from Sept. 11-13 in Nome. The deadline to submit materials for the board’s consideration is Aug. 23. Bosshart was unsure whether The Fairbanks Cut would be able to make that deadline, but was hopeful that appeals materials would be ready for the board’s November meeting, the date for which has not yet been announced.

Though the company does share a building with its landlord, it does not share an HVAC unit or a ventilation system. G2 Construction’s offices are located on the floor above The Fairbanks Cut. 

The proposed on-site consumption area would be outdoors and would not be open during normal business hours. The sole entrance to the area would be inside The Fairbanks Cut.

Councilman Jerry Cleworth asked Bosshart for clarification on Bosshart’s definition of a freestanding building. She said that because The Fairbanks Cut was not in a strip mall, and did not share a wall or airspace with G2 Construction, it was within the bounds of regulation.

“If they had wanted sole occupancy, they could have easily put that in the regulations. It says nothing about that — it says a freestanding building,” Bosshart said.

Councilwoman Kathryn Ottersten also pointed out that if The Fairbanks Cut had owned the building and wanted to rent out unused space, they would not be able to under the current ruling. She went on to paraphrase one of her law professors, saying, “Bad decisions make bad laws.” She continued, “That decision is a bad decision. The unintended consequences of it are to restrict the ability of business owners to operate their businesses, in a ludicrous way.”

Bosshart agreed with Ottersten, going on to say that the freestanding restriction was already “tremendously restricting.”

Bosshart stated that allowing this legal public venue for consumption of marijuana would entice users to consume the product away from other, less desirable areas, like public parks, rental cars and hotels. She felt it was more desirable for the activity to happen in a sanctioned area, where tourists, as well as residents, could consume the product.

The Fairbanks Cut has thought through the concerns about on-site consumption and provided practical solutions for many of them.

Bosshart compared on-site consumption of marijuana to drinking in a bar. She said The Fairbanks Cut would sell marijuana for consumption only in small amounts — about the equivalent of two beers, she said.

She also said The Fairbanks Cut would help alleviate concerns about inebriated customers by splitting the cost of Uber rides with those who consumed too much to drive home. She also suggested that customers could stop by The Fairbanks Cut, consume a pot product and leave on foot to patronize nearby businesses.

In consideration of G2 Construction’s traffic and parking concerns, the on-site consumption area would not be open during normal business hours. Bosshart told the council the consumption area, should it be approved, would be open 5 p.m. to midnight on weeknights, and noon to midnight on Saturdays.

Contact Cheryl Upshaw at 459-7572 or find on Twitter: @FDNMcity.