Anchorage Effort to Curb Legal Pot Use in Public Faces Backlash

An Anchorage Assembly ordinance that would ban consumption of marijuana in public places is under fire from pro-pot groups.

Alaska's largest city is considering the legislation with recreational marijuana use -- approved in a statewide ballot measure last fall -- is set to become legal.

The Alaska Cannabis Institute and Coalition for Responsible Cannabis Legislation oppose the municipal bill, arguing that its definition of a public place is overreaching. The groups argue that by making a broad definition of "public," the ordinance makes it difficult for marijuana users and business owners to legally consume and sell it.

Cory Wray, director of the Alaska Cannabis Institute, said the ordinance would effectively stop "cannabis cafes" or similar businesses allowing open marijuana consumption.

"I just hope that in the spirit in which (the Assembly) regulates it, that they think of the folks who consume cannabis and that they try to make it as easy as possible for those folks to follow laws," Wray said.

Municipal Attorney Dennis Wheeler said the ordinance is a "blend" of the city's statutes on public alcohol consumption and smoke-free workplaces. He said it would be up to the Assembly to limit or expand that definition of "public" or make other modifications to the proposed law.