Alaska Marijuana News

Petition for vote on commercial marijuana ban in Kenai borough misses first deadline

Petitioners seeking a vote on a commercial marijuana ban in the Kenai Peninsula Borough fell short of the number of signatures required for the October ballot but still have time to get the question before voters at a later date, the borough clerk said Friday.

"I sent them an email today," said Clerk Johni Blankenship. The signatures were "insufficient. They did not have enough," she said.

Supporters needed 62 more signatures to make the Oct. 4 ballot, Blankenship said. They still have 10 days to gather the remaining signatures, which would place the petition on the October 2017 ballot or would put it in a special election on a date chosen by the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly, she said.

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Robert Thraves, one of the co-sponsors of the petition, said Friday that he wasn't sure whether the group would continue collecting signatures.

"We're still considering those options but I'm leaning to not pursue it any further," Thraves said.

Thraves said the group had collected 100 more signatures than the necessary 898 but many were disqualified because they were voters registered in the cities, not the borough.

"It was pretty sad," Thraves said.

Thraves said petitioners would likely wait to see what action the Legislature takes, if any, on the commercial cannabis industry during the next session. Alaska's initiative legalizing marijuana can be repealed by the Legislature starting Feb. 24,  2017. Thirty petition booklet holders gathered signatures for the effort, including Peter Mlynarik, chair of the state marijuana board tasked with regulating the fledgling cannabis industry. The Department of Law said Mlynarik's efforts were not a conflict of interest, although potential marijuana businesses cried foul.

The petition would ask voters whether to ban commercial cannabis in the borough. All four license types — cultivation, manufacturing, retail and testing facilities — would be prohibited if a ban were approved by voters.

The cities of Kenai, Seward and Homer wouldn't be affected. Soldotna has already placed a two-year moratorium on the industry.

About 58,000 people live in the Kenai Peninsula Borough.