The Future of Legalization: Alaska’s Ballot Measure 2

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The Law, Briefly

 

With about 52 percent of the vote, Alaska passed Ballot Measure 2 and became the fourth state in two years to legalize recreational marijuana while taxing and regulating sales. (For comprehensive coverage from the Alaska Dispatch News, click here.)

 

Once the measure becomes law it will be legal to possess (and show – the legislation actually says this though does not indicate to whom; we assume it means to law enforcement, but not while waving and driving) up to an ounce of marijuana in public and grow up to six plants, three flowering. The law also allows for the transportation and display of “marijuana accessories.”

 

It will be legal, and encouraged by Weekend Review Kit, to give away up to an ounce to another adult over the age of 21 without remuneration.

 

Who’s the Boss?

 

Ninety days from when the election is certified in late November, the measure will officially become law, at which point the state will have nine months to create a regulatory framework for the cannabis industry.

 

Beyond that there is still much to be decided. One of the chief concerns of the Vote No constituency was how much will be determined by a recreational cannabis regulatory committee that hasn’t been formed yet, including: qualifications and procedures for obtaining a license to operate a cannabis establishment, health and safety standards, labeling requirements, and advertising limits.

 

The state will create some kind of marijuana control board, contained within the Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development. The DCCED oversees basically all that’s for sale in Alaska, including alcohol. It will be the responsibility of that committee, over the ensuing nine months, to decide everything from the application process to a plan for keeping cannabis out of the hands of minors.

 

Same As It Ever Was

 

The passing of Measure 2 represents a significant shift in policy for the Last Frontier. Since a 1975 Alaskan Supreme Court Case, Ravin v. State of Alaska, citizens have had the right to possess a small amount of marijuana in their homes (currently no more than four ounces and twenty-four plants; Measure 2 clearly states that it is “not intended to diminish the right to privacy as interpreted by the Alaska Supreme Court in Ravin v. State of Alaska”), but that only pertains to what is already inside a private residence. Possession of any amount in public is considered a class B misdemeanor and could carry a punishment of up to 90 days in prison and a $2,000 fine. In 1998, the state passed a medical marijuana bill, but there are no legal dispensaries and therefore no legal way of obtaining cannabis once prescribed.

 

This means that Alaska is closer to Washington State, which had to create a regulatory system from scratch, than Colorado or Oregon, places where medical marijuana was already under some state supervision.

 

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