Amid a cultural shift in the US, where recreational marijuana consumption is becoming accepted in more and more states, Alaska has just become the third state where cannabis use is legal. Yet the discrete, quiet state allowed the quite remarkable day to pass with little acknowledgement. Although authorities had been prepared to hand out citations for those caught smoking marijuana in public, Police departments reported that no complaints or tickets had been issued during the day.
As of Tuesday, February 24th, it is no longer considered a crime for people to possess a maximum of one ounce of marijuana within the state of Alaska. Moreover, adult Alaska residents may also give marijuana away and grow it for personal use. In the future, the state will work towards creating a taxed and regulated cannabis market, but such changes will only go into effect next year.
In November, a voter-passed legislative initiative passed, making Alaska the third US state, after Colorado and Washington State, to legalize marijuana use. This initiative will go into effect this month. Yet, the state must still work towards achieving the completely regulated and legal market that has been passed with Ballot Measure 2.
According to marijuana legalization supporters, Tuesday represented one of the state’s milestones and could be compared to the time when the prohibition ended. Yet the quaint, Republican-leaning state is a fairly conservative one. Alaskan marijuana business owners already rejoice at the possibilities that this legislation has brought and view the day as a turning point in the state’s history.
“This is the opening of the door. Now it’s time for the real work to begin.”
Dolly Fleck-Phelps, marijuana business owner said.
For Alaska, this legalization was a long way coming. 43 years to be exact. Back in 1972, Bill Parker was listed as one of the sponsors of a legalization bill. But over the years, Alaska’s views began swaying towards the Republican side and the state grew more conservative. In 1975, the Alaska Supreme Court deemed personal possession of marijuana as being protected under the right-to-privacy cause under the Alaskan constitution. 23 years later, in 1998, marijuana for medicinal purposes was legalized by voters, however, even during this time, state lawmakers continued to criminalize the possession of cannabis. It’s now Parker’s belief that the marijuana vote might represent the end of that swing.
“The initiative passed by between 5 and 6 percent, so 40 some percent of the people voted against it. Not all of them are ready to lay down and go along,”
Parker underlined, saying that there is still much that needs to be done.
On Tuesday, Governor Bill Walker oversaw the introduction of legislation that would regulate the use of marijuana by creating a marijuana control board. This board would run under the Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development and would be responsible of creating the types of regulations similar to the Alcoholic Beverages Control Board’s rules for liquor licenses.
“We have to do something, I think, to make sure that the public is safe,”
Paul Honeman, Anchorage Assembly member said.
Mr. Parker is enthusiastic about these changes, noting that the end of marijuana prohibition will mean that users no longer feel like criminals when using the substance. Moreover, Alaskan adults wishing to use cannabis are now finally allowed to without having to fear punishment, Manson Tvert, Marijuana Policy Project director of communications said.
“Law enforcement officers will no longer have to spend their limited time and resources arresting adults simply for using a substance that is objectively safer than alcohol.”
Tvert added, noting that all these resources will now be better spent tackling serious crimes that need addressing.
And while some citizens have supported the legalization of marijuana because they consider it to represent a civil rights issue, others consider it to be a matter of finally ending a failed government program, Tim Hinterberger, Campaign to Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol chair said. Hinterberger explains that, while reasons vary, the vote on legalizing the substance clearly shows that this is one of the few situations where both conservatives and progressives are in agreement.
There are still some issues that need sorting out. Back in November, when the public voted on legalizing cannabis use by Alaskan adults, voters decided to allow lawmakers and regulators to decide on the details connected to developing a good regulation system. For instance, it isn’t yet clear whether there were specific public places where marijuana consumption was prohibited in. While the legislation does ban public smoking of marijuana, a clear definition is not provided. Another aspect requiring careful consideration is the matter of commercial industry and how it would function.
Image Source: RT
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