Grassroots coalitions and initiative committees have sprung up to lobby votes for or against Ballot Measure 2 .

Grassroots coalitions and initiative committees have sprung up to lobby votes for or against Ballot Measure 2 .

There isn’t a Ballot Measure 1 today — that question was decided in August. Voters will remember a very high-profile and well-financed campaign surrounding that proposition, with sought to overturn Governor Parnell’s oil tax structure.

Today’s propositions — especially measures 2 and 3, are a bit more personal.

KCAW has more information about these ballot measures and if passed, what would change.

Downloadable audio.

KCAW’s Emily Kwong got the chance to speak with 10 Sitkans who plan on voting November 4th. Some had already filled out absentee ballots and wore “I voted” stickers to show for it. When asked whether they would vote yes or no to increase the minimum wage, everyone answered as if it was a no brainer.

Rouner: Yeah, we need a higher minimum wage.

Handy: I’m for that. I mean there’s people out there struggling. Waitresses and so forth.

Ferguson: Well, I signed the petition in order to get it on the ballot so I’m a total supporter of that.

That was Lucas Rouner, Jimmy Handy, and Kelly Ferguson. Ferguson felt the high cost of living in Sitka, from groceries bills to rent, made it imperative for the state  to raise the minimum wage.

Mike Littman said it came down to keeping up with the federal government, whose minimum wage is lower, at $7.25 an hour.

“It hasn’t kept up with inflation for decades,” said Littman. “From everything that I’ve read, raising the minimum wage doesn’t have any harmful effects on business or employment. In fact, it helps.”

This consensus broke down on the issue of marijuana.

“With Colorado and Washington leading the way and proving it can be beneficial to the states, it’s turning a lot of people,” said Jimmy Handy, while stringing up Christmas lights. “I mean you look at the interviews on the radio with the Former Commission of Corrections and he’s for it. And you have the former lead prosecutor for the State of Alaska and she’s for it.”

That would be Laurie Constantino, Alaska’s former chief prosecutor and Bill Park, the former deputy commissioner for the Department of Corrections.

Park said that leaning on law enforcement to police marijuana use was like “using a hammer to go after a mosquito.”In other words, time and resources could be better spent on bigger problems.

For another voter, who wished to remain anonymous, marijuana is a big problem and those states who have legalized it have only made things worse.

“Look at Seattle,” the voter said. “They’re selling it there and people are driving and hitting people are high on that stuff. Maybe it does make money, but it’s not worth it. It isn’t. You’re high all the time. I can’t even stand the smell of it, it makes me sick. Deathly sick.”

Sick for some, but a relief for others.

Kelly Ferguson works at the Pioneer Home and gets frustrated when elders who request marijuana are denied access.

“It’s been proven that the benefits of marijuana medically, whether it’s for insomnia or for depression or for diabetes neuropathy or for cancer,” said Ferguson, adding,”Just for a variety of reasons is a very positive thing, so I support it yes. 100%.”

Ferguson reasoned that Alaska should regulate marijuana just as it does tobacco and alcohol. A native of South Africa, she feels that criminalizing marijuana is a violation of individual freedom.“I came from a country that was very controlling and it’s very destructive to the spirit and the soul of an individual,” said Ferguson.

Lucas Rouner said he began smoking when he was 14. He stopped, but doesn’t consider habitual marijuana use nearly as harmful as alcohol.

“I’ve wrecked three cars while drinking. I’ve never gotten into a fight over herb. I’ve attacked my kitchen.”

Rouner doesn’t see the harm, and cites Denver as an example of how marijuana can bring profit to a city through a distributorship or dispensary. For Ellen Leuders, who works at the Chocolate Moose, the possibility of a storefront advertising marijuana is a sad one.

Our high here is the mountains, the fishing, the getting away and it would be sad to have that as an option on Lincoln street.”

And when it came to the drug itself, she felt that it’s chemistry as a mind altering drug was reason enough to vote no.

“As someone who lost their son to a drunk driver and someone who didn’t have a clue that he did what he did, I don’t think we need to legalize something that can truly alter the mind.”

Oregon and the District of Columbia will also be voting on a ballot measure to legalize marijuana today. 

Today is election day across the state and nation. Polls will be open in Sitka from 7 AM to 8 PM. Both Sitka precincts will vote at Harrigan Centennial Hall. You can find full coverage of all the races and links to a sample ballot on our website at

Special coverage of national election returns begins tonight on Raven Radio at 6 PM. State election return coverage from the Alaska Public Radio Network begins at 9.