After numerous meetings and passionate public testimonies over the past year, the Kodiak City Council voted Thursday to allow the sale of edible marijuana products in retail stores within city limits.
The council voted 4 to 1 to approve the ordinance, with the sole vote in opposition coming from councillor John Whiddon. He cited concern about increasing access of edibles to youth who might not be able to differentiate between candy or cookies and an edible.
The council had passed an ordinance in June 2018 to allow the use and sale of marijuana within city limits but ban the sale of edible marijuana. Last year, the Marijuana Special Advisory Committee, established by ordinance, recommended that the council continue prohibiting the sale of marijuana edibles and revisit the topic within a year.
During Thursday’s public hearing on repealing the ban, Janiese Stevens, the owner of Wildflower marijuana retail store on Near Island, said she spoke with Councillor Whiddon about educating Kodiak’s youth about marijuana.
“I do have two of my four children still in the education system,” said Stevens, who said she believes educating the island’s youth about the marijuana movement is important. “I’m on board with that and would be willing to do presentations with you guys and the school.”
City council members Charlie Davidson and Randall Bishop, who both supported the repeal, also spoke about the importance of educating the youth about marijuana use and edibles.
In addition, Davidson said parents should be responsible for ensuring that their kids do not gain access to edibles.
Children ”have access to other illegal things and it’s because of irresponsible parenting,” Davidson said. “I think it's unfair to penalize those in the adult world because we have irresponsible parents.”
Councillor Laura Arboleda said she supported the repeal of the ban because edibles sold at shops would be more regulated than those made at home.
Councillor Whiddon said that although he did not support the ordinance, he wanted to use his “no” vote to vouch for creating “a robust and effective education program,” whether it be the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program or a new program.
During the public comment period at the end of the meeting, Kodiak Chief of Police Tim Putney, who has been on the police force for 17 years, said he had concerns about some of the discourse during the meeting, especially about blaming the parents for youth using marijuana. “In 17 years I've seen some really great kids come from really horrible homes, and I've seen some people grow up to make some horrible decisions who had wonderful parents,” Putney said. “I don't know if there is a strong correlation there. I think everybody is their own person and they make decisions. I think we need to be aware of our stereotypes and biases when we are generalizing folks like that.”
Putney also said he was skeptical of how effective an education program would be in deterring marijuana use because “the human brain isn't developed until we are 25 years old.”