The Herald Bulletin

Morning Update

Breaking News

April 26, 2013

Advocates eye legalizing marijuana in Alaska

JUNEAU, Alaska —  Alaska, known for its live-and-let-live lifestyle, is poised to become the next battleground in the push to legalize the recreational use of marijuana.

The state has a complicated history with the drug, with its highest court ruling nearly 40 years ago that adults have a constitutional right to possess and smoke marijuana for personal use in their own homes. In the late 1990s, Alaska became one of the first states to allow the use of pot for medicinal reasons.

Then the pendulum swung the other direction, with residents in 2004 rejecting a ballot effort to legalize recreational marijuana. And in 2006, the state passed a law criminalizing possession of even small amounts of the drug — leaving the current state of affairs somewhat murky.

Supporters of recreational marijuana say attitudes toward pot have softened in the past decade, and they believe they have a real shot at success in Alaska.

The state is reviewing their request to begin gathering signatures to get an initiative on next year's ballot. The proposal would make it legal for those 21 and older to use and possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana, though not in public. It also would set out provisions for legal grow operations and establish an excise tax.

It's a significantly different version of the failed 2004 ballot effort that would've allowed adults 21 and older to use, grow, sell or give away marijuana or hemp products without penalty under state law.

"The whole initiative, you can tell, is scaled down to be as palatable as possible," said one of the sponsors, Bill Parker.

If the initiative application is accepted, backers will have until January, before the next legislative session starts, to gather the more than 30,000 signatures required to qualify the measure for the primary ballot.

The effort could determine whether the pendulum swings back.

The Alaska Supreme Court, in its landmark 1975 decision, found possession of marijuana by adults at home for personal use is constitutionally protected as part of their basic right to privacy, though the court made clear it didn't condone the use of pot.

The laws tightened again with a 2006 state law criminalizing marijuana possession. The American Civil Liberties Union sued, saying the law conflicted with the 1975 ruling. The state maintained marijuana had become more intoxicating than in the 1970s, a point disputed by ACLU.

But the high court, in 2009, declined to make a finding, concluding any challenge to the law must await an actual prosecution.

Parker said the lack of clarity regarding marijuana possession is a problem, but he noted police aren't exactly peeking into people's homes to see if they have the drug.

Deputy Attorney General Richard Svobodny said in an email that home-use marijuana cases in Alaska are few because authorities have no reason to get a search warrant unless something else is going on inside a house that attracts their attention.

The proposed initiative includes language that says it's not intended to diminish the right to privacy interpreted in the 1975 case. But it notes that case is not a "blanket protection for marijuana possession," said Mason Tvert, a spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project.

"In order to have a system where individuals can go to a store, buy an ounce of marijuana, drive home, and enjoy it at home, it is necessary to make up to an ounce of marijuana entirely legal," Tvert said.

Alaska is one of many states mulling changes to marijuana laws. Last fall, voters in Colorado and Washington state passed initiatives legalizing, taxing and regulating recreational marijuana.

This year, bills were filed in more than half the states to enact a medical marijuana law, decriminalize or reduce penalties for simple possession, or to tax and regulate marijuana for adult use, according to the Marijuana Policy Project. However, many of those proposals died, stalled or will be carried over.

Tvert said his group is working to promote initiatives allowing recreational marijuana in a handful of other states, including California, Oregon, Maine and Nevada. He thinks those states will be ready to pass such a measure in 2016.

"Ultimately we are starting to see the marijuana policy debate shift away from whether marijuana should be allowed or prohibited and toward how we will treat it," Tvert said.

The U.S. Justice Department has not said how it will respond to the laws in Washington and Colorado. A bipartisan group of congressmen, including Alaska's lone U.S. House member, Don Young, recently introduced legislation that would ensure the federal government respects stat e marijuana laws. For the Republican Young, it's a states' rights issue, his spokesman said by email.

Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell, who consistently has fought the feds when he believes they've overstepped their bounds, supports a state's right to establish its own laws and appreciates Young's effort, Parnell spokeswoman Sharon Leighow said. But he also considers marijuana a "gateway drug that can lead to more serious patterns of substance abuse and criminal offenses," she said by email. He has not stated his position on the proposed initiative.

 

1
Text Only
Breaking News
  • Doctor: Patient killed caseworker before gunfight

    A doctor told police that a patient fatally shot a caseworker at their hospital complex before the doctor pulled out his own gun and exchanged fire with him and wounded him, a prosecutor said Thursday night.

    July 25, 2014

  • Feds plan review of FSSA over Medicaid backlog

    Federal officials are reviewing Indiana's procedures for enrolling residents in Medicaid after finding the state had 80,000 low-income residents awaiting approval in May.

    July 25, 2014

  • Very bad week: Airline disasters come in a cluster

    Nearly 300 passengers perish when their plane is shot out of the sky. Airlines suspend flights to Israel's largest airport after rocket attacks. An airliner crashes during a storm, and yet another disappears. Aviation has suffered one of its worst weeks in memory, a cluster of disasters spanning three continents.

    July 24, 2014

  • Indiana receives 245 children caught at US border

    New federal data show more than 200 unaccompanied children caught at the U.S. border have been placed with sponsors in Indiana.

    July 24, 2014

  • Witness: Teen's plane didn't show obvious distress

    A man who saw a plane flown by an Indiana teen who was killed during an around-the-world flight attempt says the aircraft was flying low but didn't show any obvious signs of distress before diving into the ocean off American Samoa.

    July 24, 2014

  • Ryan Dalziel takes Brickyard Grand Prix pole

    Defending race winner Ryan Dalziel earned his first IMSA TUDOR United SportsCar Championship pole position of the season Thursday in qualifying for Friday's Brickyard Grand Prix.

    July 24, 2014

  • Ohio State marching band chief fired after probe

    Ohio State University fired the director of its celebrated marching band on Thursday after determining he ignored a "sexualized" culture of rituals including students being pressured to march in their underwear and participate in sexually themed stunts.

    July 24, 2014

  • Gary man charged with murder in officer's death

    Prosecutors charged a 24-year-old man Thursday in the shooting death of a Gary police officer.

    July 24, 2014

  • MDU1.jpg Colts Camp Update: Pagano praises city, AU

    Blue skies and comfortable temperatures greeted the Indianapolis Colts on the first practice day of training camp Thursday at Anderson University.

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Indiana homeowners face $1.5M dam repairs bill

    A state agency says six dams on small lakes in a northern Indiana subdivision need about $1.5 million in repairs that the homeowners should pay to have completed.

    July 24, 2014

Featured Ads
More Resources from The Herald Bulletin
AP Video
Crashed Air Algerie Plane Found in Mali Israel Mulls Ceasefire Amid Gaza Offensive In Case of Fire, Oxygen Masks for Pets Mobile App Gives Tour of Battle of Atlanta Sites Anti-violence Advocate Killed, but Not Silenced. Dempsey: Putin May Light Fire and Lose Control Arizona Prison Chief: Execution Wasn't Botched Calif. Police Investigate Peacock Shooting Death Raw: Protesters, Soldiers Clash in West Bank Police: Doctor Who Shot Gunman 'Saved Lives' 'Modern Family' Star on Gay Athletes Coming Out MN Twins Debut Beer Vending Machine DA: Pa. Doctor Fired Back at Hospital Gunman Raw: Iowa Police Dash Cam Shows Wild Chase Obama Seeks Limits on US Company Mergers Abroad Large Family to Share NJ Lottery Winnings U.S. Flights to Israel Resume After Ban Lifted Official: Air Algerie Flight 'probably Crashed' TSA Administrator on Politics and Flight Bans Raw: National Guard Helps Battle WA Wildfires
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Helium debate
Helium
Front page
Poll

How important do you consider preschool for children?

Vital
Important but not critical
Not necessary
     View Results