Society

Petition to Legalize Recreational Marijuana Moves Forward in Alaska

| by Allison Geller

Alaska is poised to become the third state to legalize recreational marijuana.

"Prohibition is a failed policy it's time for a change the majority of Alaskans we think will support the idea of this initiative," Tim Hinterberger, a sponsor of The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana, told KTUU.

The campaign has gathered over 45,000 signatures, which organizers brought to the state Divison of Elections office for processing. The petition proposes legislation that would allow anyone over 21 to possess, use, and grow marijuana. Selling pot would still be illegal for unlicensed distributors.

Medical marijuana is currently legal in Alaska, but Hinterberger says that it is too difficult to access for many people who need it. Retail marijuana sale would allow mature adults to use marijuana as they see fit.

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"We think that adults who chose to use a substance like marijuana, which by all accounts is far less harmful to the individual and society than alcohol, should have the right to do so," he said.

Though the petition has likely gathered enough verifiable signatures to appear on the August ballot, there are still plenty of marijuana opponents in the state.

“Anytime you legalize a drug, even though your saying you're only legalizing it for adults, it makes it more accessible for children," said Sergeant Detective Kathy Lacey of the Anchorage Police Department.

Others say that pot has serious health implications and can be a “gateway drug” that leads to more serious narcotics use.

Marijuana activists disagree that legalization would have a deleterious effect on Alaskan society.

"It's not that the initiative would bring marijuana to Alaska," Bill Parker, a former Department of Corrections deputy commissioner and one of the initiative's sponsors, told the Anchorage Daily News. "Marijuana is already in Alaska. It would legalize, regulate and tax it. It would treat it like alcohol."

Recreational marijuana is currently legal in Washington and Colorado. Those states have served as examples for others who are considering changing their own laws, making the “legalize marijuana” movement more mainstream than fringe as public opinion begins to sway. Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts, Montana, Nevada and other states may all be on the way to legalizing recreational marijuana, CNN reports.

Sources: KTUU, Anchorage Daily News, CNN