ALASKA: For more than 30 years, Alaska’s libertarian streak made it the only state in which it was legal, under some circumstances, to smoke marijuana just for the fun of it.
Then along came voters in Colorado and Washington state. Last year, both states passed initiatives legalizing pot and setting up rules for production, sales and taxation.
Now backers of a similar initiative here say they are close to giving Alaskans the same opportunity to just say yes. They’re nearly halfway to reaching their goal of getting 45,000 signatures by Dec. 1, about 15,000 more than the number needed to put the measure on the 2014 primary election ballot, according to Timothy Hinterberger, the measure’s main sponsor.
The initiative would add a new seven-page chapter to Alaska’s statute books, making it legal for adults at the age at which they may buy beer to also possess up to an ounce of pot anywhere, except where a property owner banned it. It would set up a state regulatory body to oversee cannabis farms, dealers and advertising, and ensure that products don’t end up with juveniles or the black market. The initiative would impose a $50-an-ounce excise tax that would be collected between the greenhouse and the store or factory.
Employers would still be able to ban smoking or possession at work and prevent employees from being high on the job. Driving under the influence would still be illegal, and local governments could outlaw pot growing and sales — but not possession — by local option. Police officers would have to stop their current practice of seizing small amounts of marijuana when they encounter it. The measure would authorize retail pot shops but not dope dens, parlors or bars.
“In a free society, prohibition of popular substances is just bad public policy,” Hinterberger said.
Since Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell ruled June 14 that the initiative could proceed to the signature-gathering phase, the measure has been gaining support, Hinterberger said. Momentum accelerated, he said, with the announcement Aug. 29 by the U.S. ustice Department that it wouldn’t enforce federal drug laws against possession, production and sale of pot in states where it was legal and where well-managed controls exist.