Council votes down ordinance to ban drive-through windows for marijuana retail stores
The Nome Common Council voted down an ordinance that would have prohibited drive-through and curbside sales of marijuana products, after hearing extensive testimony from the Greg Smith, who aims to offer a drive-through window at his Nome Grown marijuana shop, and industry professionals.
In public testimony Smith passed out a petition with 179 signatures advocating for the drive-through option. He said the marijuana industry is blamed for the vaping problem that they did not create. “The vaping crisis stems from youth having access to nicotine vapes and unregulated vape juice products that are outside of the marijuana regulated system,” he said. “Youth are unable to purchase any products from Nome Grown, a licensed marijuana retail store.” He assured the council that his products are carefully tested for contamination and are tracked and traced. Since all customers must provide ID’s to prove they’re over 21 that wouldn’t change if a sale were to take place through the drive-through window. Smith said all sales would have to be called in prior and be vetted. He argued that there is still an unregulated black market, : and allowing the black market to flourish by denying the public the convenience of a drive-through to access regulated, tested products or tax revenue for public resources puts the public at risk.”
He said, pickup windows were enacted during the Covid-19 pandemic, including at Nome Grown and that there were no adverse incidents reported. The arguments brought by Ryan Tunseth, president of the Alaska Marijuana Industry Association, were that of convenience for elderly and disabled residents to provide better access to product and to also offer more security for staff. Smith clarified that state regulations prohibit the delivery of marijuana products, so the only convenience the store can offer customers is a drive-through window. Councilmember Scot Henderson and City Manager Glenn Steckman took up the invitation by Smith to visit his store and look for themselves what the proposed drive through setup would look like. Concerns brought up were, how the traffic and exhaust from idling cars would affect the adjacent apartment complex, how the store would assure that no pot would be sold to underage persons and how buyers could be identified if sitting in a dark car. Smith said every buyer’s ID is scanned and one has to be a customer in good standing to be able to pick up product from the window. He said he has three infrared cameras installed that look at the car from different angles. Council member Mark Johnson commended Smith on the grassroots effort to explain the issue but said “we have to agree to disagree on the effect of pot on society as a whole.”
When the vote came up, Johnson was the lone ‘yes’ vote for the ordinance to prohibit drive-through windows, whereas Henderson, Maggie Miller, Sigvanna Tapqaq and Adam Martinson voted no.
A resolution to approve a contract with Greg Knight for the position of City Clerk was moved to the executive session. City manager Glenn Steckman said that Knight had withdrawn his application for the job.
In other business, the council voted unanimously for a resolution to award a contract for upgrades to the heating and ventilation system at City Hall to Sturgeon Electric for a cost of $1.4 million. Steckman recommended to use $1.1 million in ARPA funds and to balance the remainder with CARES funds still in the general city coffers.
Steckman also updated the council on the pool progress. The pool is filled and filtering is taking place. In the last week of February manufacturer representatives will come to Nome for final inspections and certification of warranties.
The council recessed into executive session to discuss a police chief candidate; a contract with NSHC and an update on the property tax dispute with NSHC.
On Thursday, the council will hold a special meeting to vote on a resolution granting NSHC property tax exemption on four properties and a refund to be paid out in the amount of $ 131,574.72, including $5,551.62 in interest.
The council will also vote on confirming Rhonda West and Adam Lust to fill two vacant seats at the Planning Commission.