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Juneau: The Amsterdam of Alaska?

By Liz Raines Photojournalist: Cale Green - 7:52 PM May 26, 2017

Could Juneau become one of the biggest destinations for pot tourism in the world? The City and marijuana retailers are hopeful.

More than 10,000 tourists a day will step onto the docks in downtown Juneau this season. Even if just 10 percent of them were interested in consuming cannabis, that’s a thousand people; the City and marijuana retailers say that’s big business.

The cruise ship that pulled into Juneau’s port Friday morning wore a fitting title: the “Amsterdam”. That’s exactly the vibe Alaska’s capital city is going for.

“We want to be the Amsterdam of Alaska,” said Giono Barrett, co-owner of Rainforest Farms, a cannabis store in downtown Juneau. “There’s a lot more going on up here for adventure, they want to see mountains and whales and an ocean and glaciers. So, we have all of that right out of our port– you can access it within 20 minutes of getting off your ship– including the cannabis.”

Legal marijuana has already brought people from around the world into Barrett’s shop.

“This is my first time coming through this town and this was one of the first stops that I wanted to make is just coming and checking it out,” said Dallen Jensen of Utah.

“I was actually unaware that the legislation was open here, so, this was actually a huge surprise for me and was actually a huge attraction,” Charisse Tay, of Singapore, said.

It’s an attraction with a catch. While it is legal to buy pot in Juneau, there’s no legal place for tourists to smoke because cruise ships sail in federal waters.

“Since it’s a federal crime, that’d be a big problem,” said cruise ship passenger Greg Smith, of California.

“Right, so you’re not going to take any chances with that,” added his wife Pamela Smith.

If the state allows smoking lounges, Juneau’s city manager says Alaska’s Amsterdam could be even bigger for pot tourism than the real one.

“The ratio of visitors to residents in Amsterdam is very different than the Southeast cruise ports. I think if the state board allows on-site consumption, I think we’re going to have a really different dynamic here,” said Duncan Rorie Watt, City/Borough Manager for the City and Borough of Juneau.

For now, those who set sail searching for a place with pot in Alaska will have to experience it in the dark.

In its last meeting in February, the state Marijuana Control Board decided not to move forward with regulations to allow on-site consumption. The board will meet again in July in Fairbanks. The agenda has not yet been finalized.

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