Pot proposition draws Mat-Su voters to the polls
Those manning the polls on election day in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough said precincts were busier than expected and the reason was marijuana.
“I believe that if the proposition, the pot one, if it was not on the ballot, we would have very low turnout,” election worker Sandi Wollsey said.
Proposition B-1 asked borough residents to cast a vote on whether to ban the commercial marijuana industry, except hemp, outside of city limits. Wasilla and Palmer have already banned such businesses, limiting commercial marijuana to Houston if the measure succeeds.
“Obviously the hot-button issue is the marijuana initiative,” said voter John Gallagher. “That was admittedly what brought me out here today.”
That was a common answer for voters when asked why they wanted to vote in the borough’s Oct. 4 election.
“Specifically, we wanted to vote on the marijuana one and the bond issue for the pools,” said voter Cindy Spellecacy.
Some people at the polls said they were for commercial pot in the Valley, like Duane Spellecacy.
“It doesn’t seem right to me for one small group to say, ‘no, you can’t sell it,’ after the whole state said yes,” he said.
Others were against allowing the commercial marijuana industry where they live.
“I feel that we have enough problems with drugs without having the commercialization of marijuana in our area,” voter and Palmer mayor candidate Edna DeVries said.
Former Mat-Su Mayor Larry DeVilbuss, a proponet of Proposition B-1, said he’d be pleased with either outcome.
“Tomorrow morning, I’m going to be satisfied that people got their choice,” he said. “And I’ve said before and I’ll say it again: you’re not going to hear more from me on the issue, whichever way it goes.”
Marijuana advocates lined street corners on Tuesday to encourage people to cast a ballot.
Caleb Saunders, a Proposition B-1 opponent and owner of the Green Jar dispensary — located just outside Wasilla city limits — would not be able to sell pot if the measure succeeds.
“It’s been a long road. We started this a long time ago,” he said. “Signed a lease not knowing whether we had a viable business option. And this — everything we’ve been working for — it means that now, everything I thought it could be, we actually have the potential to move forward with that now.”
Mat-Su election officials say the average voter turnout over the past three years is just under 17 percent. The numbers from this year’s vote aren’t available yet, but the Mat-Su Borough clerk expects a large spike.
The polls closed Tuesday night at 8 p.m.
Also on the Oct. 4 ballot were a $22 million recreation bond, several Assembly and school board races and a five percent tax on marijuana sales.
KTAV 11’s Shannon Ballard and Eric Ruble contributed to this report.