Fairbanks City Council Passes On-site Marijuana Consumption Ordinance

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FAIRBANKS, Alaska - The Fairbanks City Council held their regular meeting Monday April 22, 2019, and began the meeting with Ceremonial Matters.

Fairbanks Mayor Jim Matherly recognized City of Fairbanks Police Chief Eric Jeweks for his 25 year service with the Fairbanks Police Department.

“It takes a special type of person to serve as a police officer,” said Matherly.

Eric Jewkes plans to retire at the end April. He said it has been an honor to serve as an officer and police chief for the City of Fairbanks.

“I don’t have anything prepared. Thank you. You know I have often said we tell the people coming in there are three components that you need to survive law enforcement,” said Jewkes.

He said there are three things to know.

“Physically, you have to survive. You have to live though this career, and we talk about this when we talk about our people coming in, and we know the statistics about different dangerous professions but the fact is, is that in my career here in the city of Fairbanks I’ve had four friends that did not make it through this career. So the component of physical survival is important because they don’t all make it,” said Jeweks.

He also said one must survive the career choice, and not get burned out.

“When you leave here you don’t want someone with their boot pushing you out, or being fired or terminated,” he added

Third, emotional.

“Emotionally you have to survive this onslaught of human tragedy that you are on the front line of, and you have to leave with your humanity, believing in yourself, believing in your community and believing in people, and being a happy person, and all those three have to be there to truly survive,” said Jewkes.

“Luckily I think I’ve made it. I’d like to say I have this wonderful story about how I pulled myself up against all odds to be here but the fact is it’s just absolutely not true. I have two parents that will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary this year that showed me hard work, passion, generosity, knowledge, intelligence as I go forward and deal with the construction field. I’ve told probably a dozen people if I can narrow half of what my dad has forgotten then I’ll be just fine. I have a staff, some of them are back here that are just caring and competent, and just a wonderful police department, so you put all that together and really what was left for me was just not to screw that up,” said Jewkes to everyone in the room.

“For you to appoint me, for you guys to support me and trust me is huge, and it’s a huge honor and it’s very humbling because I believe that the position of chief is way greater than I will ever be, and so I appreciate your trust,” he added.

The Council then opened discussion for citizen comments that ranged from potholes on city streets to ordinance 6101 that would allow marijuana establishments to allow on-site consumption of cannabis.

“It’s happening in the Borough, The Fairbanks North Star Borough, and we sit inside that and if it is going to happen the onsite consumption issue, it’s going to happen the rest of the state and outside of the very small city limits of Fairbanks are you not doing a major disservice to your citizens of Fairbanks and your business owners that started businesses inside the city limits?” asked Keenan Hollister owner of Pakalolo.

During council member comments the conversation was wide open with members going back and forth on whether or not to vote on the ordinance as amended, propose to substitute a similar ordinance, that would once again require a public hearing, or to put the ordinance before the voters on the ballot.

Shoshana Kun one of the Council Members that introduced the ordinance said she visited some of the Marijuana retail stores in Fairbanks on 4/20. She said she was asked frequently why the council keeps pushing off these “controversial” ordinances and putting it before the voters.

“But I hope we as a council can do that… make the decisions we were elected to do, and not continuously pushing it off to the public,” said Kun.

Kun also brought forward the financial gain that the City of Fairbanks would benefit from, if the ordinance would pass.

Council Member Jerry Cleworth was opposed to the thought of passing the ordinance and would have liked to see it put before the voters on the ballot.

“Putting it up on the ballot we thought would be a good effort to stop, so the industry wouldn’t have to go out and do it themselves didn’t have to bother the city clerk office. It would save everybody a lot of time by simply putting It on the ballot,” said Cleworth.

Council Member Daivid Pruhs suggested the council take a look at ordinance 6101 as it stands.

“And if it passes great, but if it doesn’t pass great we don’t have any confusion. We won’t have competing ordinances on the ballot,” said Pruhs.

Kathryn Ottersten is of the other Council Members that introduced the ordinance. She stated having a safe place for those who cannot consume cannabis is important for those who may live in an apartment complex or residential living area would not otherwise have that option.

“The conversation there is acknowledging that it is better to have people in one location doing legally than in their cars on the street violating. So I think we are looking at something here that is not accurately portrayed to say that we are going to be striking out without any benefit in hindsight if we look to have it,” said Ottersten.

Valerie Therrien changed he vote during the meeting being precarious at first on passing the ordinace but thought the idea of putting a “buffer zone in place that is implemented by the council would be better than an initiative that could have been proposed by supporters.

“I think it’s really important that we keep boundaries between the establishments between people’s homes because I think we heard a lot of testimony about that in the very beginning when we were putting in the cannabis establishments so I’m just a little worried about that,” said Therrien.

After much discussion the City Council voted 4 to 2 to pass ordinance 6101, with council members Kun, Ottersten, Therrien, and Pruhs voting to pass the ordinance, and Council members Cleworth and Rodgers voting down the ordinance.

This now allows those in the industry to be able to provide a designated area for those for onsite consumption at marijuana establishments in Fairbanks City limits. Daniel Peters owner of Good Sinse Cannabis retail and cultivation and what he says hopefully soon product manufacture had this to say after the meeting

“I feel like the council made a decision they were comfortable with, and I feel like it is something the industry can live with as well. We’re going to put our best foot forward. This is so new that the industry is defiantly going to go their best job to make this happen. I know that for a fact as far as my business goes I am going to do those things and I feel like everyone else in the industry is working equally hard at that.”

The State of Alaska and the Borough have already filed regulations approving on-site consumption and now the city of Fairbanks is a part of this movement.

Another item on the agenda that evening was the passing of ordinance 6102 by unanimous vote.

This ordinance allows for a dispatcher to be hired with a sign on bonus.

The dispatcher will be trained to FECC policies and procedures. FECC will provide IAED Certification.

Being a lateral dispatcher should shorten the training process by 4 to 5 months.

If the dispatcher transfers from an agency that uses the same computer systems, radio or telephone system it should shorten the training process by even more.

The lateral dispatcher would receive the first payment upon completing training and the second half of the payment upon completing probation. Probation is typically 6 months beyond being released from training. The total amount of the incentive bonus is $15,000. If the employee left prior to 3 years than the $15,000 would have to be repaid pro rata.

FECC is currently short 4 dispatch positions.