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Alaska Marijuana Legalization Goes Into Effect

alaska marijuana legalization

#FlashbackFriday: Measure 2 was passed by voters two years ago to start the Alaska marijuana legalization and went into effect today.

ak1Adults age 21 years or older can now posses one ounce of cannabis or grow up to six marijuana plants. When 52 percent of voters said yes on a ballot initiative last November it made Alaska one of the four states to regulate cannabis along with Oregon, Washington and Colorado.

A retail supply system of licensed cultivators and stores has not yet been established. So selling any amount of marijuana remains illegal at the moment. However it can be given away for no remuneration. Alaska residents are known for their robust bartering system. But trading anything of value of cannabis would also be illegal right now.

Governor Bill Walker has filed legislation to create an oversight board, similar to a liquor control board, to administrate commercial marijuana operations next year. There would be four types of businesses allowed: growers, processors (for extracts, oils and edibles), product testing laboratories and retail stores.

The tax system is basic: a $50 per ounce excise tax on each wholesale ounce sold from a grower to a store. Municipalities will also have a say in zoning and other issues. Anchorage city government took up a bill to ban retail cannabis stores, but the measure was defeated in a 9-2 vote in December.

The full legalization measure will also benefit those seeking cannabis therapy.

«This gives safe access for medical marijuana patients,» said Morgan Fox of the Marijuana Policy Project, «There were no legal dispensaries, but now even those patients can access what they need.»

Smoking in public is still off limits and comes with a $100 fine. But cannabis «social clubs» are already popping up.

Because statehood came to Alaska in 1959, it has the most modern constitution. One of the rights enshrined to residents is the strongest legal definition of personal privacy. In 1973, Irwin Ravin, a colorful attorney who migrated from Newark, New Jersey, decided to put it to the test. After being stopped for a broken taillight with some marijuana in his pocket, Ravin refused to sign the ticket and plead guilty. He was arrested and took the case to trial. By 1975, Ravin had argued the issue all the way up to the State Supreme Court. NORML helped out by supplying expert testimony and legal briefs. It turned out to be a landmark decision.

«We conclude that no adequate justification for the state’s intrusion into the citizen’s right to privacy by its prohibition of possession of marijuana by an adult for personal consumption in the home has been shown,” the court ruled.

Ravin vs The State allows up to four ounces of cannabis to be possessed within an Alaska home. Measure 2 specifically does not interfere with that ruling.

Read the full text of the initiative here.

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