Foes of marijuana want to outlaw it in Valdez by popular vote
Petition for ballot initiative to ban commercial pot activities in city pending
Marijuana foes in Valdez are working towards adding a ballot initiative to outlaw all commercial activity within 10 miles of the city limits.
Sheri Pierce, city clerk, is expected to approve a pending application that will allow organizers to begin circulating a petition that would create the initiative that will appear on the ballot in the 2017 municipal elections. If passed by majority vote, the citizen's initiative would effectively ban all retail sales, testing, cultivating, and manufacturing facilities in Valdez.
Pierce said it is highly unlikely a special election would be approved by council to put the initiative before voters prior to the next regular municipal elections to be held in May, 2017.
Under state marijuana regulations, any licensed marijuana businesses already operating would have 90 days to close and their state licenses would become null and void if a local ban is passed. This includes any marijuana businesses operating within a ten-mile radius of the city limits.
Pierce, whose duties of city clerk include running elections, said the process to begin petitioning voters to create a citizen's initiative is lengthy.
Carl Hedman, a local pastor, is the lead sponsor. Christy Franklin, a Valdez business woman, is the alternate.
To begin the ballot initiative process, a sponsor must submit an application to the clerk's office with the name of lead sponsor, an alternate, and at least eight additional sponsors, for a total of ten. Only sponsors listed in the application are allowed to circulate the petition amongst registered voters.
For the initiative to be included on the ballot, sponsors will need to gather at least 191 valid signatures of voters registered in Valdez according to Pierce.
This is because the initiative process requires signatures from 25 percent of the voters who cast ballots in the last regular election. According to the clerk's office, there were 761 ballots cast in the 2015 municipal elections.
Commercial marijuana was approved by Alaska voters in the 2014 elections. In that election, Valdez voters approved commercial marijuana legalization 726 to 466.
There is one commercial marijuana retail license and one for cultivating marijuana from Valdez pending before the state's marijuana board.
Despite commercial marijuana's popularity amongst Valdez voters in the 2014 election, opponents of the law have protested its implementation at recent city council and Planning & Zoning Commission meetings.
The statewide voter initiative that legalized commercial marijuana in Alaska in the 2014 elections allows local governments to regulate or outright ban its implementation.
What local governments and its voters cannot do is outlaw the individual's right to consume marijuana or grow certain amounts for personal use only.
To date, the state marijuana board has yet to actually issue any type of commercial marijuana licenses, and it remains illegal to sell or cultivate marijuana on a commercial scale.