Monumental marijuana legalizations made last year in Washington and Colorado have been hailed as the most progressive in the country, but the history of Alaska’s weed acceptance outdates the two new pot-friendly states by nearly 40 years — dating back to a decision made by the state’s Supreme Court in 1975. But Alaska’s history of marijuana legalization isn’t quite that simple — University of Alaska law professor Jason Brandeis exhaustively lays out how jurisdiction overlap and varying interpretations have kept the state from being an effective poster child for marijuana legislation.
“Now in the fourth decade since Ravin was issued, the legal status of marijuana in Alaska sits in an odd position. Personal use and possession of marijuana in the privacy of the home remain protected by Ravin and its progeny, but the current Alaska criminal code prohibits possession of any amount of marijuana, as does the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA). Despite these statutory bans, Alaska courts continue to recognize that ‘not all marijuana possession is a crime in Alaska.’ This tension between state court decisions and state and federal statutes continues to raise questions as to the rights of the individual, the responsibilities of law enforcement, and the continuing vitality of the Ravin decision.”
But Alaska’s long history of being at the forefront of marijuana legalization doesn’t mean the state is the still the most liberal in terms of recreational use, at least not now that Colorado and Washington have pushed through protective weed use laws. An Alaskan news reporter named Charlo Greene quit in the middle of newscast in September when shevcame out as the CEO of Alaska’s local cannabis club. According to Greene, thousands of people are still arrested every year because of uneven enforcement throughout the state — something she hopes to prevent with a new ballot measure up for vote on November 4.
“Ballot Measure 2, the initiative to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in Alaska, isn’t just about marijuana in the Last Frontier, it’s about keeping the ball rolling on NATIONAL legalization. Imagine, if after Colorado and Washington have legalized recreational marijuana and are offering the rest of the world a positive outlook on what ending marijuana prohibition can do, Alaskan voters fail to continue moving our nation in the direction toward freedom and fairness. There’s no doubt that will impact every other state, national and international marijuana reform effort. Americans with common sense don’t want that.”
Former members of Alaska’s law enforcement have also gotten behind Alaska’s chance to make history with marijuana legalization. A video campaign currently circulating around Alaska features several once high-ranking police officials arguing in favor of decriminalizing marijuana in the state with the ballot measure.
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