The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in Alaska was an initiative committee formed to support a ballot measure entitled, “An Act to tax and regulate the production, sale, and use of marijuana.” As the title suggests, the measure makes the possession of marijuana legal for adults 21 years of age or older and establishes a regulated system of marijuana cultivation and sales. More details are included below and the full text of the measure can be viewed here.
Initiative sponsors submitted the text of the measure to Alaska Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell on April 16, 2013. It was certified on June 14, and the lieutenant governor’s office provided the sponsors with petitions. In order to qualify, the campaign needed to collect at least 30,169 valid signatures of registered Alaska voters by January 2014.
After months of hard work, on January 8, 2014 initiative sponsors submitted more than 45,000 collected signatures to the lieutenant governor’s office. On February 4, the campaign received word from the Division of Elections that enough signatures had been verified for the initiative to be placed on the ballot. The lieutenant governor certified the initiative for the primary ballot on February 26.
At 11:59 p.m. on April 20, the state legislature failed to adjourn its session, meaning the initiative was automatically moved to the November 4 ballot. The change of ballot was due to a constitutional provision requiring initiatives to be placed on the first statewide ballot 120 days following the end of a legislative session.
The following is an overview of the ballot measure. The full text of the measure can be viewed here.
- Includes a statement saying the initiative is not intended to diminish the rights established by the Alaska Supreme Court in the Ravin case, which allows citizens to possess a limited amount of marijuana in their homes. It also includes a statement saying the initiative will not diminish the rights of patients or caregivers under Alaska’s medical marijuana law.
- Makes possession of up to one ounce of marijuana and up to six plants (three flowering) legal for adults 21 years of age or older. It also allows adults to possess the marijuana produced by the plants on the premises where the plants are grown.
- Makes manufacture, sale, and possession of marijuana accessories legal.
- Grants regulatory oversight to the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, but gives the legislature the authority to create a new Marijuana Control Board at any time. The regulatory board has nine months to enact regulations, and applications shall be accepted one year after the effective date of the initiative.
- Creates the following marijuana establishments: marijuana retail stores, marijuana cultivation facilities, marijuana infused-product manufacturers, and marijuana testing facilities.
- Allows localities to ban marijuana establishments, but they cannot prohibit private possession and home cultivation.
- Establishes an excise tax of $50 per ounce on sales or transfers from a marijuana cultivation facility to a retail store or infused-product manufacturer.
- Consumption of marijuana in public will remain illegal and punishable by a $100 fine.
- The initiative does NOT change existing laws related to driving under the influence.
- Allows employers to maintain restrictions on marijuana use by employees.
In 1975, the Alaska Legislature approved a bill to decriminalize private possession of up to one ounce of marijuana, replacing the possibility of time in jail with a civil fine of up to $100. Just 11 days later, the Alaska Supreme Court removed all penalties for privately possessing up to four ounces of marijuana and up to 24 noncommercial marijuana plants inside one’s home. The Ravin v. State decision held that the state law prohibiting possession of small amounts of marijuana violated the right to privacy guaranteed by the Constitution of Alaska, noting that the state had failed to prove that using marijuana in one’s home caused significant harm to the user or to others. In 1982, in light of the Ravin ruling, the legislature dropped the $100 civil fine, making possession of up to four ounces of marijuana in one’s home legal under state law.
In 1990, voters approved the Alaska Marijuana Criminalization Act by a margin of 54% to 46%, making possession of any amount of marijuana a criminal offense punishable by up to 90 days in jail and up to a $1,000 fine. The Alaska Court of Appeals overturned the law in 2003, upholding the ruling in Ravin and noting that the 1990 ballot initiative did not change the right of privacy guaranteed by the state constitution.
In 2006, the Alaska Legislature passed a law to once again criminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana. Despite the fact that it did not actually overturn the ruling in Ravin, there were more than 800 arrests for marijuana-related offenses in 2012, the vast majority of which were for simple possession.
Fortunately, in 1998, voters approved the Alaska Medical Marijuana Act by a margin of 59% to 41%, allowing individuals with serious illnesses such as cancer and HIV/AIDS to use and grow limited amounts of medical marijuana if their doctors recommend it.
From 1975 until 1990, Alaska had some of the most reasonable marijuana laws in the nation. But during the course of the last 23 years, they have become needlessly confusing and inconsistently enforced. Alaskans deserve a more sensible and consistent marijuana policy.