ANCHORAGE, AK — Alaska’s Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell has certified ballot initiative application that would make it legal for adults to possess up to one ounce of marijuana in the state.
Activists now have one year to collect 30,169 signatures from qualified voters across the state to get the question on the ballot.
The proposed ballot question would legalize marijuana for adults 21 or older, who would be allowed to possess up to one ounce. The initiative would also establish a system of regulated marijuana retail sales, legal growing, and establish an excise tax on recreational marijuana.
The proposal would create state-regulated marijuana stores, cultivation facilities, marijuana infused-product manufacturers, and marijuana testing facilities. It would also allow adults to have up to six marijuana plants.
Also included in the proposed initiative is a $100 fine for anyone caught smoking marijuana in public, which is currently a class B misdemeanor.
The retail marijuana industry in Alaska would be overseen by the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, but the state legislature would have the option of creating a separate Marijuana Control Board to oversee the industry.
The state elections division will now begin printing petition booklets, which will take about a week. Once the booklets are ready, the signature gathering, which advocates hope to finish by January.
Alaska has some of the most liberal, if not confusing, marijuana laws in the country. A 1975 ruling by the Alaska Supreme Court established that as part of Alaskan’s right to privacy adults have the constitutional right to posses and smoke marijuana for personal use in their homes.
However, in 2006, the legislature passed a bill, later signed by the governor, attempting to re-criminalize marijuana legislatively. A lawsuit challenging the new law was thrown out on procedural grounds leaving the state of the law somewhat in flux.
Notwithstanding the legal murkiness regarding possession in one’s home, possession of one to four ounces of marijuana outside the home is a misdemeanor subject to 90 days incarceration and a fine of up to $1,000.
Fifty-eight percent of Alaska voters approved Ballot Measure 8 in the 1998 elections, officially becoming a medical marijuana state in March 1999.
Alaska voters rejected a marijuana legalization initiative in 2004, with only 44 percent of the state’s voters backing the idea.
Rep. Don Young (R), Alaska’s only US Congressman, is among the bi-partisan co-sponsors of the Respect State Marijuana Laws Act, introduced to Congress in April. The bill, if passed, would end the enforcement of federal marijuana laws in states that have either legalized it or adopted medical marijuana laws.
Mike Anderson, Rep. Young’s press secretary, said the bill “is particularly important for a state such as Alaska.”