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Alaska the Third State to Legalize Marijuana
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Alaska's voter initiative became legally effective on Tuesday.

Summary: Alaska’s voter initiative that supported the legalization of marijuana became legally effective on Tuesday.

According to ABC News, Alaska is now the third state that has legalized the smoking, growing, and possession of marijuana. On Tuesday, marijuana was legalized, enacting a measure citizens voted in favor of months ago. According to NPR, selling marijuana remains illegal.

  
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The voter initiative sought to make marijuana laws clear, since for the past four decades, there have been conflicting court rulings and statutes in Alaska. Libertarians, small-government Republicans, and individualists all worked together to bring about the legalization of recreational marijuana. This group especially valued the privacy that is guaranteed in Alaska’s state constitution.

Read about the voter initiative here.

Although a 53 percent majority voted in favor of the legalization of the private use of marijuana for adults, many details are still unclear and will need to be established by lawmakers and regulators.

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The news is not welcomed by all Alaskan citizens, however. Alaska Native leaders are concerned that the legalization of pot will bring with it trouble for communities that already suffer from high rates of alcohol abuse, drug use, suicide, and domestic violence.

Edward Nick, a council member in Manokotak, a village comprised of about 400 individuals who are mostly Yup’ik Eskimo, said, “When they start depending on smoking marijuana, I don’t know how far they’d go to get the funds they need to support it, to support themselves.” Alcohol and drug use are prohibited in the village, even inside its residents’ homes. Manokotak is located about 250 miles southwest of Anchorage.



Nick is concerned that the voter initiative, along with the 1975 state Supreme Court decision that allowed marijuana use inside homes, will be a one way ticket to drug abuse.

The issue made it to the ballot last February.

Those who supported the initiative have informed Native leaders that their communities and villages will still have local control over some issues. For example, Alaska law provides that every community may regulate alcohol locally. In the area from northern Barrow to Klawock, which is 1,291 miles away from Manokotak, 108 communities have enacted limits on alcohol consumption, and 33 prohibit it outright.

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The initiative did not include clear opt-out language for smaller communities and tribal councils. Each one will have to determine how to move forward.

The new law also bans smoking marijuana in public, but failed to define what constitutes public smoking. The alcohol regulatory board has been tasked with creating the definition. It plans to meet Tuesday to plan an emergency response.

In Anchorage, the largest city in the state, officials had tried to ban a new commercial marijuana industry back in December. Police Chief Mark Mew said that his force will be cracking down on the public smoking ban. He warned people that they should not even smoke on their porches if they live in close proximity to a public park. In North Pole, smoking outside on private property will be allowed so long as a nuisance is not created. Some other officials are considering a proposed cultivation ban for the Kenai Peninsula.

Legal marijuana is the fastest growing industry in the country.

The laws have addressed different scenarios over the years. The 1975 state supreme court ruling allowed personal marijuana possession. In 1998, an initiative legalized the medicinal use of marijuana. However, any possession of the substance was criminalized.

Now, adult Alaskans may possess, use, transport, grow, and give pot to others. A regulated and taxed marijuana market will not be present in the state until at least 2016. According to Reuters, “adult” is defined as those 21 years of age and older.

Should citizens choose to smoke pot in public, they will still be subject to a $100 fine.

Dean Smith is a marijuana enthusiast from Juneau. Some of his buddies are in jail for marijuana-related crimes. Smith said, “It’s going to stop a lot of people from getting arrested for nonviolent crimes.”

Those in support of the legalization have been warned not to go overboard. A piece in the Alaska Dispatch News stated, “Don’t do anything to give your neighbors reason to feel uneasy about this new law. We’re in the midst of an enormous social and legal shift.”

Charlo Greene, a former news reporter who is now the chief executive officer of the Alaska Cannabis Club, plans to have its grand opening in downtown Anchorage on Tuesday. She plans to give away pot to paying “medical marijuana” patients and other “members” of the club. Greene famously quit her reporter job, swearing on live television, to support the initiative last year.

Source: ABC News

Photo credit: lawprofessors.typepad.com



 

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