Friday, January 10, 2014
The question in the title of this post is prompted by this notable local press report, headlined "Alaska marijuana legalization initiative turns in 45,000 signatures," concerning the latest marijuana reform activities in the Last Frontier:
The Alaska Campaign to Regulate Marijuana handed over more than 45,000 signatures on Wednesday afternoon at the Alaska Department of Elections in Midtown Anchorage for certification by Lt. Governor Mead Treadwell. If the signatures are found to meet state requirements, the measure will head to the polls to appear on the the Aug. 19 primary election ballot, and voters will decide whether to legalize, tax and regulate the production, sale and recreational use of marijuana in Alaska....
If successful, the petition will bring the measure before voters later this year. [initiative sponsor Tim] Hinterberger also expressed confidence the measure would pass. “It’s pretty clear to most Alaskans that prohibition has failed,” he said.
The act would legalize and regulate the sale of marijuana for adults aged 21 years or older. Marijuana would be taxed at $50 per ounce. Where those funds would end up, whether in the state’s general fund or for a specific section of state government, is not laid out in the act. “It’s going to be up to the Legislature to work out the details as to how this is implemented,” Hinterberger said.
The 8-page act was drafted by a team of folks from Alaska and Colorado, including several attorneys, Hinterberger said, with the language based largely on Colorado’s law. Voters in Colorado passed a ballot initiative of their own legalizing recreational marijuana in November 2012.
Under Alaska's proposed act, a Marijuana Control Board could be created within the state Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development. The board would establish the procedures surrounding registration, security and labeling requirements, as well as health and safety regulations, among other duties. Public use of marijuana would be banned, with a fine up to $100 per offense. Local governments could also choose to continue prohibition of marijuana in individual communities.
The act also states that it would not diminish the right to privacy as interpreted by the Alaska Supreme Court in the 1975 case Ravin v. State of Alaska, which found that constitutionally-protected privacy rights trumped the state's home intrusion authority in pursuit of Alaskans using small amounts of marijuana....
If the initiative reaches the ballot, it will join the SB 21 referendum -- which seeks to roll back the changes to oil taxes that passed the Legislature in 2013 -- and another initiative that requires lawmakers to approve any mine in Alaska's Bristol Bay region by passing a law ensuring it won't threaten the area's salmon fisheries. The primary election will also host a flurry of candidates for both Governor and Lt. Governor. “It may very well be the least controversial measure on the ballot in August,” Hinterberger said....
At least one longtime Alaska lawmaker has already expressed willingness to go along with the results of any ballot measure that seeks to legalize marijuana. Alaska Rep. Don Young supported the bill, and said in May  that he would support whatever Alaskan voters decide in terms of legalization of marijuana in the state. “That’s their decision,” he said at the time. Alaska Sen. Mark Begich expressed a similar sentiment. “If Alaskans have the opportunity to make their voices heard I will support their decision,” Begich said in a written statement Wednesday.
The last time marijuana legalization was brought before voters was in 2004. That measure failed to garner enough support at the polls, with 44 percent of voters in favor of the act. That act would have offered a much looser regulation of marijuana than the current act proposed under the new ballot initiative.