Again: Alaskans Will Vote on Cannabis Legalization This November ! It was legal in 1975

Jul 21, 2014
Alaskans Will Vote on Cannabis Legalization This November!

Alaska is known as The Last Frontier State and was home to a massive gold rush. It seems appropriate then that Alaskans are going to have the chance to uphold their name and possibly host another rush, of the green variety.

At one point, the vote on recreational cannabis legalization was scheduled for August of this year, as part of the primary ballot. It has since been moved to the official November ballot. The reasoning for the move was simply that officials hoped more Alaskans will weigh in on the issue, as turnout is generally higher at November elections than at primaries.

One of the groups responsible for this ballot initiative is the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol in Alaska. They are currently working to ensure that the growing conservative backlash doesn’t destroy what seems like the perfect environment for legalization: a libertarian-leaning, sparsely-populated state with a strong tourism infrastructure.

The law, if passed, will allow adults age 21 or over to possess up to an ounce of marijuana and up to six plants (only three of which may be flowering at any given time). It would also legalize the sale, manufacture, and possession of cannabis accessories, such as water pipes. Cities will be allowed to ban cannabis businesses, but will not be allowed to ban cannabis use or home cultivation. There will also be a $50 per ounce excise tax on transfers from cultivators to extract/medible producers or retail dispensaries.

You can follow the Facebook page of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol in Alaska here.

Ladybud will be following this and other legalization campaigns as the 2014 election season nears. Read other recent legalization news coverage here.

In Alaska, cannabis was decidedly legal (under state, but not federal, law) for in-home, personal use under the Ravin v. State ruling of 1975. This ruling allowed up to two ounces (57 g) of cannabis and cultivation of fewer than 25 plants for these purposes.

A 1991 voter ballot initiative recriminalized marijuana possession, but when that law was eventually challenged in 2004, the Alaska courts upheld the Ravin ruling, saying the popular vote could not trump the state constitution.

In response to former Governor Frank Murkowski's successive attempt to re-criminalize cannabis, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit against the state.

On July 17, 2006, Superior Court Judge Patricia Collins awarded the Case Summary judgment to the ACLU. In her ruling, she said "No specific argument has been advanced in this case that possession of more than 1 ounce (28 g) of cannabis, even within the privacy of the home, is constitutionally protected conduct under Ravin or that any plaintiff or ACLU of Alaska member actually possesses more than 1 ounce (28 g) of cannabis in their homes." This does not mean that the legal possession threshold has been reduced to one ounce, as this was a mere case summary review filed by the ACLU, not a full case.

Reinforcing Ravin, Collins wrote "A lower court cannot reverse the State Supreme Court's 1975 decision in Ravin v. State" and "Unless and until the Supreme Court directs otherwise, Ravin is the law in this state and this court is duty bound to follow that law". The law regarding possession of cannabis has not changed in Alaska, and the Supreme Court has declined to review the case, therefore the law still stands at 4 ounces (113 g).[21] However, federal prosecutions under the CSA can be brought in Federal Court, and federal courts applying federal law are not bound by state court precedent. As such, federal courts in Alaska will recognize that possession of any quantity of marijuana remains illegal in Alaska under federal law.

It should be emphasized that legal possession of cannabis is strictly noncommercial.

The maximum legal limit is up to 4 oz (110 g) or 25 plants owned for personal use by adults in the privacy of their homes.[21] Possessing more than 4 oz (110 g) or more than 25 or cannabis plants is a felony punishable by up to 5 years in jail and a fine of up to $50,000.[22] Possession of any amount cannabis within 500 ft (150 m) of a school or a recreation center is also a felony punishable by 5 years jail time and a fine of up to $50,000; but if possession is noncommercial and the offender is in their a private residence, an affirmative defense may be raised in court.[22]

Possession of marijuana for Commercial reasons regardless of the amount is prohibited by law.[22] Sale of less than 1oz is considered a misdemeanor punishable by one year jail time and a fine of up to $5000.[22] Sale of more than one ounce of cannabis is a felony punishable by 5 years in prison and $50,000 fine.[22] Furthermore, Alaskans cannot maintain any buildings or structures whose sole purpose is to house and or distribute marijuana plant.[22]

A petition of 45,000 signatures, originating from a marijuana regulation campaign was submitted to the Alaska Department of Elections on January 8, 2014. The campaign exceeded the required amount of 30,000 signatures from 30 of Alaska’s 40 voting districts to qualify. If the signatures are found to meet state regulations, the measure will appear on the August 19 primary election ballot. An 8 page act regarding the regulation of marijuana sales was drafted by both Alaska and Colorado citizens, based largely on the language used in Colorado's law.[23]


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