Alaska Marijuana News

Mat-Su voters will decide commercial marijuana ban and sales tax

PALMER — Voters in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough will see two marijuana-related items on the October election ballot.

One ballot initiative asks if residents of the borough — Alaska's reputed cannabis capital — want to allow commercial marijuana operations outside Palmer, Wasilla and Houston.

The other, approved Tuesday night by the Mat-Su Assembly, will ask voters if they favor up to a 5 percent sales tax on any marijuana sales.

That's if voters let sales stay legal.

Alaska law lets municipalities opt out of legal marijuana-related sales, including grow operations, testing facilities and retail outlets.

Palmer and Wasilla have already decided to ban commercial cannabis. But the city of Houston allows commercial sales, and borough voters will decide in October whether to allow them outside the cities.

The idea of a boroughwide marijuana retail tax raised concerns in Houston, potentially the only place in Mat-Su where commercial operations may be legal. The city already levies a 2 percent sales tax, so officials expressed concern about the cumulative effect of a new tax.


"This may lead to the black market operations being driven underground and operations to locate elsewhere," Deputy Mayor Lance Wilson told the borough assembly Tuesday.

In response to such concerns, assembly member Randall Kowalke of Willow amended the sales tax proposal to partially exempt the cities, so the marijuana retail tax tops out at 5 percent. His motion for the amendment passed, with assembly members Dan Mayfield and George McKee opposed. The marijuana tax passed with McKee opposed. It will be reconsidered at the assembly's Aug. 2 meeting.

[Marijuana Control Board overwhelmingly approves licenses as it wraps up historic meeting]

The borough assembly last month approved a temporary moratorium on commercial marijuana license applications pending the October vote. Work continues, however, on land-use recommendations for the fledgling industry.
Local elections will be held Oct. 4 in Mat-Su.

The assembly also approved putting on the ballot $22 million in recreation bonds, with McKee voting against. The bonds include improvements to two swimming pools, three ice arenas, nine trails, a park and trail bridges. If the bonds are passed, borough taxpayers would see a property tax increase of $42.24 a year for every $200,000 in assessed value, according to a statement from spokeswoman Patty Sullivan.

Zaz Hollander

Zaz Hollander is a veteran journalist based in the Mat-Su and is currently an ADN local news editor and reporter. She covers breaking news, the Mat-Su region, aviation and general assignments. Contact her at