Alaska Supreme Court affirms dismissal of suit over marijuana business prohibition initiative

By Gabriel Neves | Oct 11, 2018

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Legal Newsline) – The dismissal of a lawsuit over a ballot initiative that attempted to prohibit marijuana business in the borough of Matanuska-Susitna, Alaska, has been affirmed by the state's high court.

Alaska Supreme Court Justice Daniel Winfree issued a 14-page ruling on Sep. 28 affirming the Alaska Superior Court's decision in the lawsuit filed by resident Ronda Marcy against the borough.

In his ruling, Winfree challenged Marcy's arguments that the Superior Court erred in dismissing the case as moot, stating that "Marcy does not demonstrate how the court’s notice, which provided her the opportunity to brief the issue, resulted in prejudice requiring reversal."

Marcy sued Matanuska-Susitna over the initiative, which she considered unconstitutional and unlawful, and alleged that it should be removed from the election ballot.

As stated in the ruling, in November 2014, "Alaskans passed a statewide ballot initiative enacting AS 17.38, which became law in February 2015, generally legalizing marijuana." 

A subsection of that law "permits local governments to 'prohibit the operation of marijuana cultivation facilities, marijuana product manufacturing facilities, marijuana testing facilities, or retail marijuana stores through the enactment of an ordinance or by a voter initiative,'" the ruling states.

Six months after the election, per the ruling, "the Matanuska-Susitna Borough Clerk received a municipal initiative petition titled 'Application for Ballot Initiative to Prohibit Marijuana Businesses Except Those Involving Industrial Hemp in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough,'" which was certified for the October 2016 local election. The borough assembly adopted a moratorium for all marijuana establishments until the vote on the issue.

The ruling also mentioned that Marcy, who resides in the borough, "had taken steps after AS17.38’s passage to open a marijuana business." After taking these steps, she learned about the moratorium for the initiative.

Thirty-two days prior to the election, Marcy sued the borough, seeking injunctive relief “to prevent [the proposed initiative] from being placed before the voters, to have [it] removed from the ballot, and to prevent any votes from being counted on the [proposed initiative], until after this matter is resolved,” the ruling said.

She also sought "declaratory relief on claims that the Proposed Initiative was constitutionally and statutorily prohibited," the ruling states.

The case was dismissed in January 2017 after voters rejected the initiative three months earlier.

Alaska Supreme Court case number 7306

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