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Unalaska voters overturn commercial marijuana ban

  • Author: Laurel Andrews
  • Updated: October 7, 2016
  • Published October 7, 2016

Unalaska voters overturned a commercial marijuana ban this week in what the city clerk called the largest election turnout for at least two decades.

With exactly 600 votes counted, voters rejected a commercial marijuana ban put in place in February. A total of 326 people voted in favor of overturning the ban; 274 voted to keep the ban in place, according to City Clerk Catherine Hazen.

The results won't be official until the Unalaska City Council certifies the election on Tuesday, Hazen said.

The City Council voted to ban commercial marijuana in two separate votes in February. The city manager told council members a marijuana shop could earn $1 million annually, the Bristol Bay Times reported.

That income could generate $240,000 in tax revenue, given the black market price of $500 per ounce on the island. One council member told the Bristol Bay Times he opposed the industry due to quality-of-life concerns.

About 4,600 people live in the Aleutian Island community, according to Hazen. Tuesday's election had the greatest turnout of any election since 1996, she said. A total of 675 votes were cast, with an additional 25 ballots determined invalid.

With 75 people abstaining from voting on the referendum, marijuana wasn't the only driving force bringing people out to the polls, Hazen said. The city's mayoral seat, three council seats and three school board seats were also on the ballot.

Five people were on the mayoral ballot. Incumbent Mayor Shirley Marquardt garnered 39.6 percent of the vote — just shy of the 40 percent needed to secure a win. Marquardt will now face council member Frank Kelty in a Nov. 1 runoff election.

Voters in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough also voted against a ban in the October election. In the Interior city of North Pole, voters put a commercial marijuana ban in place.

In 2017, voters in both the city of Fairbanks and Kenai Peninsula Borough will decide whether to ban the cannabis industry.

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