Juneau Assembly prepares to upgrade city smoking ban

By November 20, 2018 December 3rd, 2018 Health, Juneau, Local Government

Juneau’s anti-smoking law is poised for an upgrade.

At a Juneau Assembly committee meeting Monday night, Assembly members advanced an ordinance to bring Juneau into compliance with a new state anti-smoking law. The full Assembly will take it up at a future meeting.

City attorney Robert Palmer explained at the meeting that making local law conform to state law avoids legal ambiguity and gives the city and borough more control over prosecuting violations.

The biggest change would be an increase in the smoking buffer outside of business entrances, expanding the city’s current 10-foot buffer to the state’s recommended 20 feet. Assembly members expressed some concern about the increase, which leaves many downtown sidewalks off limits for smoking.

Assemblywoman Michelle Bonnet Hale said at the meeting she hopes the city can improve public signs.

“I would hope that we could work with that law to actually really let people know where they can smoke downtown, because they’re pretty frustrated right now and basically they say ‘Well, I guess I have to go out in the middle of the street because that’s the only legal place to smoke,'” Hale said.

The impact of the change may not be obvious. The city’s smoking ordinance is enforced by local police. According to Juneau Police Lt. Krag Campbell, only about 20 smoking citations had been written since 2013. He said other things tend to take higher priority.

Meanwhile, the state Marijuana Control Board is working on a new regulation that could allow on-site consumption of marijuana at licensed retail shops. If adopted, it would directly conflict with the city’s indoor smoking ban. City law currently prohibits smoking marijuana in bars or retail shops.

The committee decided to wait and see what happens to the draft marijuana regulation.

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