Effort to ban Valdez pot sales fails in Municipal Election

(Creative Commons photo by Brett Levin)

It looks like Alaska’s first retail marijuana store isn’t going anywhere for a while. Ballot Proposition 1, which would have banned the sales and cultivation of marijuana within Valdez city limits, is on its way of failing following preliminary results from last night’s Municipal Election.

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Opponents of Proposition 1 were “happy” after the preliminary results from Tuesday night’s Valdez Municipal Election were announced. 835 voters said no to Prop 1 while only 286 voted yes. That means retail stores and cultivators will continue to do business within city limits.

At an election watch party at the local bar, The Boardroom, owners and staff of Herbal Outfitters breathed a little easier after months of campaigning against Prop 1. The store’s general manager, Derek Morris said he can sleep better knowing that he still has a job.

“We were fearful,” Morris said. “When your head is on the chopping block, you don’t know. We didn’t want to let anybody. But to see the number come in, we can’t put into words. And right now, just being part of it is being over the moon and excitement not only for us but this industry in Alaska for it to move forward. This shows that we’re no longer the minority.  We are the majority.”

Last October, Herbal Outfitters became the first retail marijuana store to open in the state. The store was still under construction when a local group successfully petitioned for Prop 1 to be on this year’s ballot. Some members of the group felt the store would have a negative impact on the community especially with minors.

Herbal Outfitters owner Rick Ballow, who invested a million dollars into the store, extended his hand to proponents of Prop 1.

“They can rest assure that Herbal Outfitters is willing to work with them at anytime and we were going to keep it out of the hands of kids under 21. We want them to know that.”

If Prop 1 had passed, Herbal Outfitters would have had 90 days to close its doors. Retail sales and cultivation of marijuana could only be sold ten miles outside city limits. The final election results will be certified at Wednesday’s Valdez City Council meeting.

Tony Gorman is a reporter at KCHU in Valdez.

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