Marijuana Legalization 2014
By Chelsea Shaker
Alaska is paving the way to become the next state to fully legalize marijuana for recreational use, having already submitted over 46,000 signatures for the ballot initiative. Canvassing for signatures is the Alaska Campaign to Regulate Marijuana and financial support coming from Marijuana Policy Project, needed to collect at least 30,000 signatures (7%) in at least 30 House Districts for the initiative to be on the August 19th primary. Having a murky history with marijuana reform, Alaskans are determined to put an end to marijuana prohibition and “enhance individual freedom.”
Alaska Lieutenant Governor Mead Treadwell received over 45,000 signatures and now has 60 days from January 8th to inform the campaign if their initiative will be on the ballot, where every constituent will be able to vote on the legalization act to become state law.
BALLOT INITIATIVE OVERVIEW:
· The initiative is not intended to diminish the rights established by the Alaska Supreme Court in the Ravin case, which allows citizens to possess a limited amount of marijuana in their homes. It also will not diminish the rights of patients and caregivers under Alaska’s medical marijuana program
· Makes possession of up to one ounce of marijuana and up to six plants (three flowering) legal for adults 21 years of age and older. Also allows for possession of marijuana by those plants on the premises where the plants are grown (i.e.: if you can grow it in your house, you can have the finished product there too)
· Makes manufacture, sale, and possession of marijuana accessories legal
· Grants regulatory oversight to the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, but gives the legislature the authority to create a new Marijuana Control Board at any time. The regulatory board has nine months to enact regulations, and applications shall be accepted ONE YEAR AFTER the effective date of the initiative
· Creates following marijuana establishments: marijuana retail stores, marijuana cultivation facilities, marijuana-infused product manufacturers, and marijuana testing facilities
· Allows localities to ban marijuana establishments, but they cannot prohibit private possession and home cultivation
· Establishes an excise tax of $50 per ounce on sales or transfers from a marijuana cultivation facility to a retail store or infused product manufacturer
· Consumption of marijuana in public will remain illegal with a fine of $100
· The initiative does NOT change existing laws related to driving under the influence
· Allows employers to maintain restrictions on marijuana use by employees
ALASKA’S MARIJUANA HISTORY:
In ’75, Alaska Legislature approved a decriminalization bill to possess up to one ounce of marijuana, replacing the possibility of jail time with a civil infraction of $100, just as we see happening today. Eleven days later, the Alaska Supreme Court removed penalties for privately possessing up to four ounces of marijuana and up to 24 non-commercial marijuana plants inside one’s home. The Ravin v. State decision held that the state law prohibiting the possession of small amounts of marijuana violated the right to privacy guaranteed by the Constitution of Alaska, noting that the state had failed to prove that using marijuana in one’s home caused significant harm to the user or to others. In 1982, in light of the Ravin ruling, the legislature dropped the $100 civil fine, making the possession of up to four ounces in one’s home legal under state law.
In 1990, voters approved the Alaska Marijuana Criminalization Act by a margin of 54% to 46%, making possession of any amount of marijuana once again punishable, this time up to 90 days in jail and up to $1,000 in fines. The Alaska Court of Appeals overturned the law in 2003, upholding the ruling of Ravin v. State and noting that the 1990 ballot initiative did not change the right of privacy.
In 2006, the Alaska Legislature passed a law to again criminalize possession. Despite the fact it did not overturn the Ravin ruling more than 800 arrests were made for marijuana-related offenses in 2012.
Fortunately, in 1998, voters approved the Alaska Medical Marijuana Act by a margin of 59% to 41%, allowing patients with debilitating conditions to cultivate and use limited amounts of medical marijuana with a doctor recommendation.
(*initative overview and history text on Campaign to Regulate Marijuana in Alaska)
Alaska is much like so many other states in the nation, having at one point very positive, productive, effectively laid out marijuana laws. Somewhere along the lines, despite high court cases upholding citizen’s rights, laws were created and rights were stripped from the people. Almost a quarter century later, citizens are finally able to take their rights back with the legalization efforts of 2014. Having Colorado and Washington successfully implement legalization in their states has, indeed, set a standard so many other states have been waiting for. The purpose for the initiative is to allow law enforcement to get back to doing their jobs – focusing on violent crimes and other actual crimes. Alaskans understand the need for freedom for their citizens, as outlined in laymen’s terms in their own Act.
A domino effect is certainly in the works with marijuana reform throughout the country. 2014 may very well become the year that goes down in history, hopeful for countless other states to set precedence with legalization efforts. Marijuana Policy Project is determined for 28 states by 2014 (medical) but with productive, clearly economic-boosting full-legalization efforts panning out right off the bat in Colorado and Washington, the big wigs are seeing the dollar signs: Tax and regulation. Marijuana advocates have supported tax and regulation for years, if big wigs will work collectively and without over-implementing too high of excise tax, sales tax, and so forth.
What is left to be determined with every state and their legalization efforts is what the big banks will begin to do: allow marijuana economy into the financial scheme of things, as allowed by taxing and regulation within the state, or work against the beneficial advancements of these efforts? How many suits and ties have to be persuaded that marijuana business is an actual business? If the Alaska Governor and Lt. Governor are determined to bring freedoms to the people of Alaska, it’ll be expected that he’ll follow suit with CO and WA governors and issue a decree of support for big banking to include marijuana business within their states. Another beneficial stance from the Governors would be to allow individual business owners to possess firearms. Colorado’s governor is already on-board with the idea. Owners of retail stores are vulnerable with a cash-only business. Although it’s legal in the state to have said business be operational, to not allow that business to work within a financial institution is not only putting the business owner at risk, but also the customer base. Legislators, at the time of alcohol prohibition, refused financial support for bars and speak-easies. They were in the same boat marijuana reformers are in right now. Eventually, with the implementation to tax and regulate, acceptance into the financial banking world panned out. The same is hopeful for marijuana reform- especially in Alaska, where the right to protect your own property is still very much a priority and concern, whether it involves marijuana or not. Stay tuned for updates on the status of this important initiative with the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana in Alaska!
May they continue bless the cannabis community with positive results and northern lights a ’plenty