Voters decide fate of graduate’s company in proposition vote

Photo credit: Molly Putman

Two students approached the Patty Building, one walking slowly and the other far ahead of him, urging him to keep up. “Come on,” She said, “You have to help me, I’m not used to this adulting thing yet.”

The two went inside and, after a confused exchange about voting precincts and a brief phone call with a parent, successfully placed their vote and emerged, secure in the belief they had done their share to help their community.

The two students, Kelsey Nore and Sheriden Laapui, didn’t care so much about the outcome of the vote, they focused instead on the responsibility of voting. “I think it’s important to have a voice in the community -” said Laapui.

“- Even if the decisions I help make don’t affect me directly,” Nore interjected, accompanied by nods of agreement from Laapui.

The Fairbanks Municipal Election was held on October 3, boasting among other things two ballot measures to outlaw the sale and production of cannabis locally. Proposition 1 sought to ban marijuana stores, growing sites, and extraction companies In the North Star Borough, while Proposition A sought to ban the same facilities inside Fairbanks city limits. Both were struck down by voters. The University of Fairbanks Alaska and the City of Fairbanks opened a voting center in the Patty Building so student residents could participate in the local election.

Voters were not presented with an opportunity to vote on both measures as many assumed, instead Fairbanks residents were allowed to vote on Proposition A and Borough Residents were allowed to vote on Proposition 1.

The indifference to the vote on Propositions 1 and A was not felt by all. Frank Berardi, an alumnus with a Master’s Degree in business, could be found leading a group of demonstrators on the corner of Airport Way and University Ave, holding a sign carrying the message “VOTE NO!” in big white letters, accompanied by a cartoon cannabis leaf inside the state of Alaska’s outline, and approaching passersby with greetings like, “You must be a reasonable man, can you help us keep Cannabis legal?”

Berardi came to Fairbanks for college in 2011. He built his dream from the ground up, working to develop a business model and gather investors while he completed his Masters’ degree in business. He now owns a locally based cannabis extraction company called Good Titrations.

“This is our livelihood,” Berardi said “It’s all that we have…We’ve been campaigning for our existence.”

Either of the propositions would have made Berardi’s business illegal if they had passed, forcing him to either shut down his company, or move the company out of the area.

Despite the high stakes, Berardi remained confident about the vote.

“It looks like we’re getting a lot more support than we did in 2014, so we feel confident, but we’re tired of campaigning.”

Berardi walked forward to greet a passerby, then continued, “The more that [Jim Ostolin] tries it, and the more that he losses, the more likely he is to lose next time, and the time after. In fact, we’re hoping that people will just stop signing the petition.”

Ostolin is the Salcha resident behind the petition to add Proposition 1 and A to the ballot this election. Berardi claims that as long as he can obtain the signatures he requires, Ostolin will put Proposition 1 and A on the ballot every year. Ostolin was not available for comment.

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