This morning, Sept. 28, the Alaska Supreme Court upheld a Superior Court ruling in favor of the Matanuska-Susitna Borough. The 2016 case involved a dispute over whether the citizens of the Borough had the right to vote on a citizens’ initiative to prohibit commercial marijuana in the Borough.
The Alaska Supreme Court denied the appeal and ruled that the trial court acted appropriately when it allowed the voter initiative to proceed to the polls. In addition, the Alaska Supreme Court ruled that no due process rights were violated. Since the matter failed at the polls the Supreme Court agreed the issues are moot.
“We are pleased with the result because for us, this case was about the rights of voters to bring initiatives and the rights of the electorate to express their will,” said Borough Attorney Nicholas Spiropoulos.
In 2015, citizens had gathered enough signatures to place a question on whether to prohibit commercial marijuana businesses in the Oct. 2016 Borough election. (“Application for Ballot Initiative to Prohibit Marijuana Businesses Except Those Involving Industrial Hemp in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough” )
Another citizen, Ronda Marcy, called the initiative unconstitutional and asked that it be removed from the ballot. Marcy filed her suit 32 days before the Borough's 2016 election in an attempt to stop the question from going to the voters. On August 25 — more than a week before Marcy’s complaint — 69,875 printed ballots corresponding to the programming cards were delivered for the Borough’s election equipment, the filing states. By the time the Borough filed its expedited answer on September 19, absentee voting had begun.
The Superior court put the case on hold pending the initiative vote’s outcome. The Borough Assembly had also placed a moratorium on marijuana businesses awaiting voter results. That October, Borough voters rejected the initiative. The Superior Court dismissed the case as moot. Borough attorney fees were awarded by a Superior Court judge. The Borough moratorium expired Oct. 19, 2016.
At the time of the lawsuit the plaintiff, Marcy, had taken steps to open a marijuana business. She had also been an appointee on the Borough’s Marijuana Advisory Committee after marijuana became legal in a statewide vote in Nov. 2014 and State law in Feb. 2015. Marcy tried to appeal and argue that her due process rights were violated, that the issues were not moot, and the Borough Clerk should have never allowed voters to consider the initiative on the issue of commercial marijuana in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough.
The appeal, however, was denied today by the Alaska Supreme Court. Read the Alaska Supreme Court ruling attached here.
For more information contact Borough Attorney Nicholas Spiropoulos at (907) 861-8677 or Public Affairs Director Patty Sullivan at 355-0103.