Commercial marijuana ban voter initiative validated

A citizen petition to ask voters whether commercial marijuana operations should be banned in the Kenai Peninsula Borough outside the cities has received sufficient signatures to be valid.

The petition, originally submitted July 26, needed 898 signatures. The petitioners originally submitted more signatures than that, but the borough clerk’s office was only able to verify 836. Borough Clerk Johni Blankenship notified the petitioners Aug. 5 that the petition had insufficient signatures and couldn’t make it onto the Oct. 6 regular election ballot.

The petitioners then had 10 additional days to submit supplementary signatures, which they did. On Aug. 15, the clerk’s office received an additional seven booklets with 170 additional signatures. At least 62 of them were valid, making the petition viable, Blankenship wrote in a letter to the petitioners Aug. 23.

Alaska statute and borough code allow the borough assembly to hold a special election for the initiative if the assembly chooses to do so. Blankenship said she intended to distribute a memo to the assembly at its Tuesday meeting explaining the options.

“There hasn’t been any action taken yet,” she said. “I will be distributing it tonight in a memo, presenting their options.”

If the assembly did decide to hold a special election, it would have to be done by ordinance, which provides for public hearing at the assembly. Blankenship said her cost projections for a special election would run the borough about $60,000, whether it is conducted by mail or by voting stations. She said that because it is not an area-wide question, and some precincts are both inside and outside municipal jurisdictions, she planned to recommend the election be conducted by mailed-out ballots.

Elizabeth Earl is a reporter for the Peninsula Clarion. She can be reached at elizabeth.earl@peninsulaclarion.com.

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