ALASKA: Yes, you read that headline right. In 1975, the Alaska Supreme Court ruled in Ravin v. State that the right to possess, cultivate and consume small amounts of marijuana in the home was protected under the state Constitution’s right to privacy.
As you might imagine, that ruling has faced some opposition over the years, and has been placed into legal limbo from time to time due to various ballot and legislative challenges. But Alaska courts have repeatedly andconsistently upheld the notion that Constitutional privacy protections cover the personal possession, cultivation and use of marijuana in Alaska.
“Alaskans can currently lawfully possess up to four ounces of marijuana in their homes for personal use [and cultivate up to 25 plants], but still risk prosecution under existing state and federal statutes,” concludes University of Alaska law professor Jason Brandeis in an exhaustive history of Alaska marijuana law (which makes for a pretty interesting read if you’re into such things). You could still technically be charged with marijuana possession if caught with less than four ounces in your home, but a court would essentially have to throw the charge out.
This puts Alaska in a unique position: in some respects its marijuana laws are more liberal than those in the Netherlands, which outlaw personal cultivation completely. While all eyes are on Colorado and Washington to see how those experiments with legal marijuana turn out, Alaska, with 39 years of (admittedly complicated) legalization history is largely overlooked: you’d think that forces on both sides of the national marijuana debate would be looking to Alaska for answers and arguments. Why aren’t they?