On Tuesday, Alaska has joined the train of legalizing smoking, growing and owning small amounts of marijuana, part of the decriminalization movement spreading in the United States. The measure narrowly passed last November, after other two states, Colorado and Washington, took the lead in allowing recreational use.
The legal landscape regarding the use and possession of weed is radically changing, even though the federal law still deems it illegal in the other states where local authorities did not take a different stance.
That is now the case in Alaska, where the new legislation allows anyone aged 21 or older to smoke and/or possess up to an ounce of marijuana, and can also own and grow up to six marijuana plants. However, smoking in public and dealing the drug is still illegal, with the only exception being the case of exchanges of personal nature where money is not involved.
The nation’s Justice Department is cautiously adapting to the legal changes, allowing the experiments to proceed. In the future, judges will prosecute a different and more specific range of marijuana-related crimes, such as selling the drug to children. But the situation is likely to change again, if the elections in 2016 provide a more conservative president, when pot shops are due to open in Alaska.
The legalization has a lot of supporters in Alaska, which is a more libertarian state, who also argue that legal sales will improve the job market and also generate income. Dr. Tim Hinterberger, head of the “Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol”, stated that the new regulations about smoking marijuana in Alaska are sensible and promote recreational use without harming the community’s social balance.
The process has still some gaps to fill, which is why state officials will meet with the Alaskan alcohol regulatory board on Tuesday. They will have to decide, for example, a wise definition for the public places where smoking marijuana would be forbidden. The taxation and sale of marijuana is yet another issue that exists only in draft so far, but the rules are scheduled to be adopted by November 24. The next step after that will be accepting applications for business licenses, which is set for February 2016.
Law enforcement is also involved in the application of the new regulation strategies. Police spokeswoman Jennifer Castro said that their concern is to prevent smoking marijuana and then driving under influence, which is illegal in the same way driving under alcohol influence is.
Image Source: KPLU
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