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Unofficial results show Palmer residents pass marijuana businesses in city limits

In 2015, residents voted to prohibit any kind of cannabis business in town.
In 2015, people in Palmer voted to prohibit marijuana businesses from opening in city limits.
In 2015, people in Palmer voted to prohibit marijuana businesses from opening in city limits.(KTUU File)
Published: Oct. 5, 2020 at 8:36 PM AKDT|Updated: Oct. 7, 2020 at 8:33 AM AKDT
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PALMER, Alaska (KTUU) - Palmer voters appear to have made it known they are in favor of marijuana businesses in city limits.

Unofficial results posted Friday night show that of the 736 votes cast, 386 were in favor of Proposition 1, which would repeal a chapter of municipal code that prohibited such businesses; 350 votes were in opposition.

Alaskans voted to legalize marijuana in 2014, with the first legal sales happening in Valdez about two years later.

In October 2015, people in Palmer voted to prohibit any kind of cannabis businesses from opening in town. There are two businesses in Butte, just outside city limits: Matanuska Cannabis Company and KushTopia.

Matanuska Cannabis Company assistant manager Michael Consalo said the business opened in Butte in 2017 because of the restrictions in Palmer.

“We love it out here in the Butte, it’s a great community. We’ve had a great response from the community so far,” Consalo said.

He said there are pros and cons to repealing the prohibition.

It would be easier to reach their older customer base if they had a shop in downtown. But, Consalo said, there are already plenty of businesses in the area.

“Believe it or not, there’s a lab out here, several cultivations, two retails and they’re just outside city limits. Yes, we could have more but we want to be careful not to become Wasilla or Anchorage and have an oversaturation of the market,” he said.

While Palmer could benefit from the taxes marijuana brings in locally, it could change the feel of the family-friendly downtown, Consalo said.

Earlier this year David Fuller collected enough signatures to get the repeal ordinance on the ballot.

“It seems like the logical thing to do especially at a time like this. That and what makes Palmer more inviting to businesses is if we have a vast, robust array of businesses,” Fuller said.

In August, the Palmer City Council members decided not to repeal the ordinance themselves and instead wanted voters to weigh in.

“We have a culture and a lifestyle and a persona of Palmer and people have cultivated, truly cultivated, the image of Palmer. I think this is an important question that must go to the voters,” council member Richard Best said at the meeting. “This is a question of who we are and what we express ourselves to be as a city.”

Council member Julie Berberich said by not allowing the marijuana industry to set up shop, Palmer has missed out on valuable tax revenue.

The state collected about $24.5 million in taxes during the 2020 fiscal year.

“We are constantly talking here on the city council about our lack of funds to pay police officers a wage to stop them going to Anchorage, to work in Anchorage. To pay people in public works, to stop them from taking jobs in Anchorage,” Berberich said.

Election results are expected to be certified by the city council on Oct. 12.

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated with more information from Matanuska Cannabis Company and the unofficial results of the election.

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