When Ballot Measure 2 passed, legalizing recreational marijuana in Alaska, it gave cities the ability to “opt out” of a commercial industry. Now it’s up to those in Palmer and Houston to decide if their communities will be the first to do so.

Residents will cast their final votes on Tuesday.

What happens next will have a huge impact, especially for Donna Irsik.

“I don’t want our city to have a reputation as potheads,” said Irsik, who is on the board of directors for Blood n Fire Ministry of Alaska.

She’s also a sponsor of a Palmer voter initiative aimed to ban marijuana cultivation, manufacturing and testing facilities, as well as retail stores within city limits.

“I think that it’s our choice as the people and the city to decide whether we want it or not,” Irsik said. “And if everyone knew all the facts about it and did a lot of research, they would realize it would not benefit our city at all.”

A similar initiative is on the ballot for Houston.

Irsik says it’s a matter of protecting children and isn’t worth the money a cannabis industry may bring. But marijuana advocate Johnny Furlong says marijuana entrepreneurs need to be given a chance.

“If folks are willing to go to the effort of doing the petitions and bringing this to a vote for local option, then please educate yourself enough,” said Furlong.

Furlong has big dreams for his business Cheeky Monkey AK.

“This will close the conversation,” Furlong said. “If you ban it now, there’s no more conversation, there’s no opportunity for us to show, hey, this is what can happen to the economy, what can help those that are sick, and responsible adults who want to enjoy this in a responsible way.”

The state may have legalized recreational marijuana, but in Palmer and Houston it’s now up to voters to decide what’s right for their cities.

City elections across the Valley will be held Oct. 6. The polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

A borough-wide initiative to ban marijuana is expected to be on the ballot next year.

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