Alaska: Marijuana Legalization Initiative Halfway There With Signatures

ALASKA: For more than 30 years, Alaska was the only state in the U.S. in which it was legal — under some circumstances — to smoke marijuana for the fun of it.

Then Colorado and Washington voters last November passed initiatives legalizing cannabis for adults and setting up systems of production, sales and taxation.

Now backers of a legalization initiative in Alaska say they are moving toward making the same change there, reports the Anchorage Daily News. The group is about halfway to reaching their goal of 45,000 signatures by December 1, about 15,000 more than the number required to get the measure on next year’s primary election ballot, according to main sponsor Timothy Hinterberger.

“In a free society, prohibition of popular substances is just bad public policy,” Hinterberger said.

The initiative would add a seven-page statute to the books in Alaska, legalizing marijuana for adults and setting up a state regulatory body to oversee cannabis farms, dealers and advertising.

The initiative would impose a hefty $50 per ounce excise tax that would be collected between the greenhouse and the store or factory.

Employers would still be allowed to prohibit their workers from smoking or possession at work, and prevent employees from being high while on duty. Driving under the influence of cannabis would still be illegal, and local governments could outlaw growing and sales — but not possession.

Police would have to stop their current practice of seizing small amounts of pot when they find it. The measure would authorize retail pot shops, but not parlors or bars; that is to say, on-site consumption would be prohibited at the shops.

The legalization measure has been gaining support since Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell on June 14 ruled that the initiative could proceed to the signature-gathering phase. The August 29 Justice Department announcement that it wouldn’t sue to stop legalization laws in states which legalize cannabis added momentum to the cause.

“I’ve had a lot of people talk to me about that since then,” Hinterberger said. “I think that shows that we are on the right track in thinking that things are really changing, both in federal policy as well as in public sentiment. It eliminates one of the arguments you sometimes hear against an initiative like ours — it doesn’t matter what we do locally as a state because the feds will step in.”

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