Alaskan voters have had an on-again, off-again relationship with legal marijuana for years. The hard work campaigning and educating by the pro-marijuana advocates, this year, has finally come to fruition as yesterday, voters elected Alaska to be the fourth state to officially legalize the recreational use and retail sale of marijuana. Congratulations, Alaska, it has been a long and winding road!
In 1975, private possession of up to one ounce of marijuana was decriminalized in the state. Next, in 1998, Medical Marijuana was legalized. Then strangely in 1990, voters approved the Alaska Marijuana Criminalization Initiative, which re-criminalized possession of any amount of cannabis. Luckily for some, in 2003, the Alaska Court of Appeals overturned the Marijuana Criminalization Initiative, citing previous rulings as having precedence. That did not stop state legislators from once again attempting, unsuccessfully, to criminalize possession in 2006.
Measure 2, also known as the Act to Tax and Regulate the Production, Sale, and Use of Marijuana, the initiative that Alaskans passed yesterday, has been years in the making. Two other legalization initiatives have failed in the state, previously. In 2000, Measure 5 only won forty percent of the vote, and Measure 2 in 2004 only had forty-four percent support from voters. Yesterday, Measure 2, was approved by just over fifty-two percent of voters.
What does this mean for the residents of Alaska?
The bill does not become law until early 2015, but once in effect, it will legalize the recreational use of cannabis for adult residents aged twenty-one years or older, and regulate it similarly to alcohol. It also allows for the retail sale of marijuana by licensed dispensaries only. Of-age adults will be permitted to possess up to one ounces of dried marijuana flowers, and to cultivate up to six marijuana plants in a private residence.
Under this measure, the retail sale of cannabis will be regulated by the Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development. The control board still has nine months to establish rules and regulations regarding business licensing and operations. The state medical marijuana laws will remain unchanged.
In the meantime, although Alaskans may not be able to buy pot at a store, they should not have to worry about going to jail for measly marijuana possession…as long as it is not being used in public because that is still illegal.
The photos below show the excitement of pro-marijuana advocates campaigning in Alaska yesterday.
photocredit: Alaska Dispatch News