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Three Local Option Propositions Appear On The Bethel Ballot. What Does A 'Yes' Or 'No' Vote Mean?

Sep 20, 2019

If Proposition 1 passes, then Bethel would enter local option status and Caribou Traders Liquor, Bethel's only retail alcohol store, would shut down 90 days after the Oct. 1 election.
Credit Greg Kim / KYUK

Three propositions involving alcohol and marijuana local option in Bethel will appear on this year’s municipal ballot. Here’s what a “Yes” or “No” vote could mean for Bethel. 


Proposition 1 reads: "Shall the City of Bethel adopt local option (4.11.491 (a) (2) (A)), to prohibit the sale of alcoholic Beverages except through a restaurant or eating place license Yes or no.”

What does a "No" vote on Proposition 1 mean? 

A "No" vote means "no to local option," and you want to keep things the way they are right now. "No" means keeping retail alcohol sales. 

What does a "Yes" on Proposition 1 mean? 

Voting "Yes" on Proposition 1 means "Yes to local option." All the liquor stores in Bethel would close 90 days after the election, and only restaurants could sell alcohol in Bethel. 

Could you still get alcohol in Bethel if Proposition 1 passes? 

Yes. You could still fly it in your luggage, or you could order it from stores to ship it to you. If you fly it in your luggage, you’d need to clearly label the outside as alcohol if you're bringing in more than two liters of wine, one gallon of beer, or one liter of distilled spirits. And whether you ship it in or fly it in your luggage, you can't possess more than 10.5 liters of distilled spirits, 24 liters of wine, or 12 gallons of beer per month. 

Also, if Proposition 1 passes, the state's Alcoholic Beverage Control Board would track how much alcohol each Bethel resident orders per month in a database. The only people who could see the database are the liquor store employees when they're updating it, and the police could ask for it if they have probable cause to suspect someone of bootlegging. 

The punishment for bootlegging would get more severe under local option. Right now, outside of local option, bootlegging is a misdemeanor. If Bethel goes under local option, bootlegging would become a felony. 

Proposition 2 reads: "If local option is adopted, shall the City of Bethel opt to not apply a class C felony to violations of Alaska Statutes, 04.16.051, Furnishing or Delivery of Alcoholic Beverages to Persons Under the Age of 21 (AS 04.11.491(g)(3))?

Proposition 2 is only relevant if Proposition 1 passes. If Bethel ends up under local option, this refers to the crime of providing alcohol to someone under the age of 21. For example, if you're having a party and people under 21 are there and they're drinking, that's a crime. But Proposition 2 is going to decide whether that crime is a misdemeanor or a felony. So voting "Yes" on Proposition 2 means "Yes to keeping the charge a misdemeanor," and voting "No" on Proposition 2 means "No, make the charge a felony."

Proposition 3 deals with marijuana licenses in Bethel. It reads: "Shall the City of Bethel adopt a local option to prohibit the sale or importation for sale of marijuana and any marijuana product and to prohibit the operation of any marijuana establishment, which includes the following license or endorsement types:

a.) A retail marijuana store (both with and without an onsite consumption endorsement);

b.) A marijuana cultivation facility;

c.) A marijuana manufacturing facility;

d.) A marijuana testing facility;

Yes or No?”

Proposition 3 is a marijuana local option. If Proposition 3 passes, then all marijuana licenses would be banned in Bethel, including a retail marijuana store, a cultivation facility, a manufacturing facility, and a testing facility. If Proposition 3 does not pass, then Bethel would remain the way it is now, meaning that Bethel would not enter local option status for marijuana, and all marijuana licenses will be available to grow, sell, manufacture, or test marijuana. 

If Proposition 3 passes, can people still import and use marijuana in Bethel? 

Yes. People over age 21 would still be able to use and possess marijuana in Bethel if Proposition 3 passes and Bethel enters marijuana local option status. However, getting marijuana to Bethel would become complicated. It's illegal under federal law to take marijuana on a plane or ship it in the mail, but since state law says possession is legal, oftentimes it's just up to the TSA or postal agent to decide how to enforce the law.

What is the current status of marijuana store licenses in Bethel?

ALASKAbuds has received a license to sell marijuana and is planning to open later this year. Two other stores, Kusko Kush and Alaskan Grown Cannabis, also have received retail licenses, but the city council could still protest those licenses. City council has until Oct. 25 to protest the license application for Alaskan Grown Cannabis, and until Oct. 13 to protest the license application for Kusko Kush. Alaskan Grown Cannabis has a second proposed store, which the city council already protested. There's one more proposed store called The Green Store, and the state's marijuana control board hasn't reviewed the license for that one yet.  

Bethel municipal elections are Tuesday, Oct. 1 to vote on Bethel City Council candidates and three local option propositions. Early voting is available at Bethel City Hall, Monday through Friday, between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. until Sept. 30.

Correction: An earlier version of this story reported the deadline to protest the second proposed Alaskan Grown Cannabis marijuana store was Sept. 26. The deadline is actually Oct. 25. Also, the story previously reported the maximum limit for beer possession was 24 gallons per month. The limit is actually 12 gallons of beer per month.