Alaska Marijuana Legalization, Ballot Measure 2 (2014)

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Ballot Measure 2
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Type:Initiated state statute
Referred by:Citizens
Topic:Marijuana
Status:On the ballot
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The Alaska Marijuana Legalization, Ballot Measure 2 is on the November 4, 2014 ballot in Alaska as an initiated state statute.[1] If the measure is approved by voters, it would allow people age 21 and older to possess up to one ounce of marijuana and up to six plants. It would also make the manufacture, sale and possession of marijuana paraphernalia legal. These changes would be implemented at the state level; however, these acts would still remain illegal under federal law.[2][3]

The plans to try to place the measure on the ballot were announced by the Marijuana Policy Project in mid-January 2013. In June 2013, Lt Gov. Mead Treadwell announced his office certified a measure allowing adults to possess up to one ounce of marijuana.[4] A citizens' group calling itself The Alaska Campaign to Regulate Marijuana is officially sponsoring the measure.[3]

Text of measure

Ballot title

The official ballot title of this measure reads as follows:[5]

Ballot Measure No. 2 - 13PSUM An Act to Tax and Regulate the Production, Sale, and Use of Marijuana. [6]

Ballot summary

The full ballot summary reads as follows:[5]

This bill would tax and regulate the production, sale, and use of marijuana in Alaska. The bill would make the use of marijuana legal for persons 21 years of age or older. The bill would allow a person to possess, use, show, buy, transport, or grow set amounts of marijuana, with the growing subject to certain restrictions. The bill would ban the public use of marijuana. The bill would prohibit a person under 21 years of age from using false identification to buy or try to buy marijuana or marijuana accessories. The bill would allow validly registered marijuana-related entities and persons 21 years of age or older who own or are employed by these entities to make, possess, buy, distribute, sell, show, store, transport, deliver, transfer, receive, harvest, process, or package marijuana and marijuana products, subject to certain restrictions. Alaska Statute 17.30.020 (Controlled Substances) would not apply to these entities. The bill would require the Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Board to implement parts of the bill. But the bill would also let the legislature create a Marijuana Control Board to assume these duties. The bill would require the ABC Board to adopt regulations governing marijuana-related entities. The regulations would need to cover certain topics and be subject to certain restrictions. The bill would also create procedures for registering a marijuana-related entity. The procedures would be managed by the ABC board and local governments. The bill would allow a local government to prohibit the operation of marijuana-related entities. A local government could do that by enacting an ordinance or through voter initiative. The ordinances could cover the time, place, manner, and registration of a marijuana entity’s

operations. The bill would allow a person 21 years of age or older to possess, use, show, buy, or transport marijuana accessories. Marijuana accessories are products individuals use to grow or consume marijuana. The bill would also allow persons 21 years of age or older to make marijuana accessories and to distribute or sell them to persons who are 21 years of age or older. The bill states that it is not intended to require an employer to allow marijuana use, transportation, possession, sale, growth, or transfer, or prevent an employer from prohibiting these activities. The bill does not intend to supersede laws prohibiting driving under the influence of marijuana. The bill does not intend to prohibit schools, correction facilities, hospitals, or private persons or entities from restricting marijuana on their property. The bill does not intend to limit the state’s existing medical marijuana laws. The bill would impose a $50 per ounce (or proportionate) excise tax on the sale or transfer of marijuana from a cultivation facility to a retail store or marijuana product manufacturing facility. The marijuana cultivation facility would pay the tax and send monthly tax statements to the Department of Revenue. The Department of Revenue could exempt certain parts of the marijuana plant from the tax. It could also establish a lower tax rate for certain parts of the plant. The bill defines numerous terms. The bill contains a statement of purpose and findings. The bill would impose civil fines and penalties for violations.

Should this initiative become law? [6]

Full initiative text

The full initiative text can be read here.[7]

Background

See also: 2014 ballot measure hot topics: Marijuana

Marijuana in Alaska

The state of Alaska has had a complicated relationship with marijuana over the years. In 1975, the state legislature approved a bill to decriminalize private possession of up to one ounce of marijuana in public, thereby replacing the possibility of time in jail with a civil fine of up to $100. Shortly thereafter, the Alaska Supreme Court did away with all penalties for possessing up to four ounces of marijuana and up to 24 plants in one's home, ruling that the prohibition of marijuana possession violated the right to privacy guaranteed in the state constitution. As a result of the ruling, known as Ravin v. State, the legislature got rid of the $100 civil fine for possessing up to four ounces of marijuana in 1982.[8]

Then, in 1990, all of this was undone by the approval of the Alaska Marijuana Criminalization Initiative, which made all marijuana possession in Alaska illegal and punishable by up to 90 days in jail and/or up to a $1,000 fine. However, in 2003, the Alaska Court of Appeals overturned the law established by the measure and upheld the previous ruling set in Ravin v. State. Legislators once again attempted to criminalize the possession of marijuana in 2006, though they were unsuccessful in overturning the Ravin ruling. Medical marijuana was legalized in the state in 1998 with the approval of Measure 8.[8]

This is the third attempt in the last 15 years to decriminalize marijuana in Alaska. In 2000, voters defeated Measure 5, which sought to "do away with civil and criminal penalties for persons 18 years or older who use marijuana, or other hemp products." The legalization of recreational marijuana was once again defeated at the polls in 2004 when voters turned down Measure 2, which attempted to "remove civil and criminal penalties under state law for persons 21 years or older who grow, use, sell or give away marijuana or hemp products."

2012 marijuana ballot measures

The 2012 elections proved to be groundbreaking for marijuana legalization support groups. Voters in Washington approved Initiative 502, thereby legalizing the recreational use of marijuana. Coloradans followed suit when they approved Amendment 64 during the same election. However, voters in Oregon rejected Measure 80, a similar, though slightly less stringent, marijuana legalization measure. Measure 80 would have allowed adults over the age of 21 to possess an unlimited supply of marijuana and given an industry-dominated board permission to regulate sales.[9]

Supporters

The Alaska Campaign to Regulate Marijuana is a citizens' group that is officially sponsoring the measure. The measure is also supported by the Marijuana Policy Project. Supporters believe marijuana is significantly less harmful than alcohol and therefore should be legalized.[4][3][10]

Arguments

On their website, supporters of Ballot Measure 2 list various impacts of marijuana on consumers and the community. They argue that marijuana is less harmful than alcohol.

Impact on the Consumer:

  • Many people die from alcohol use. Nobody dies from marijuana use. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that more than 37,000 annual U.S. deaths are attributed to alcohol use alone (i.e. this figure does not include accidental deaths). On the other hand, the CDC does not even have a category for deaths caused by the use of marijuana.
  • People die from alcohol overdoses. There has never been a fatal marijuana overdose. The official publication of the Scientific Research Society, American Scientist, reported that alcohol is one of the most toxic drugs and using just 10 times what one would use to get the desired effect could lead to death. Marijuana is one of – if not the – least toxic drugs, requiring thousands of times the dose one would use to get the desired effect to lead to death. This “thousands of times” is actually theoretical, since there has never been a case of an individual dying from a marijuana overdose. Meanwhile, according to the CDC, hundreds of alcohol overdose deaths occur in the United States each year.
  • The health-related costs associated with alcohol use far exceed those for marijuana use. Health-related costs for alcohol consumers are eight times greater than those for marijuana consumers, according to an assessment recently published in the British Columbia Mental Health and Addictions Journal. More specifically, the annual cost of alcohol consumption is $165 per user, compared to just $20 per user for marijuana. This should not come as a surprise given the vast amount of research that shows alcohol poses far more – and more significant – health problems than marijuana.
  • Alcohol use damages the brain. Marijuana use does not. Despite the myths we’ve heard throughout our lives about marijuana killing brain cells, it turns out that a growing number of studies seem to indicate that marijuana actually has neuroprotective properties. This means that it works to protect brain cells from harm. For example, one recent study found that teens who used marijuana as well as alcohol suffered significantly less damage to the white matter in their brains. Of course, what is beyond question is that alcohol damages brain cells.
  • Alcohol use is linked to cancer. Marijuana use is not. Alcohol use is associated with a wide variety of cancers, including cancers of the esophagus, stomach, colon, lungs, pancreas, liver and prostate. Marijuana use has not been conclusively associated with any form of cancer. In fact, one study recently contradicted the long-time government claim that marijuana use is associated with head and neck cancers. It found that marijuana use actually reduced the likelihood of head and neck cancers. If you are concerned about marijuana being associated with lung cancer, you may be interested in the results of the largest case-controlled study ever conducted to investigate the respiratory effects of marijuana smoking and cigarette smoking. Released in 2006, the study, conducted by Dr. Donald Tashkin at the University of California at Los Angeles, found that marijuana smoking was not associated with an increased risk of developing lung cancer. Surprisingly, the researchers found that people who smoked marijuana actually had lower incidences of cancer compared to non-users of the drug.
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  • Alcohol is more addictive than marijuana. Addiction researchers have consistently reported that marijuana is far less addictive than alcohol based on a number of factors. In particular, alcohol use can result in significant and potentially fatal physical withdrawal, whereas marijuana has not been found to produce any symptoms of physical withdrawal. Those who use alcohol are also much more likely to develop dependence and build tolerance.
  • Alcohol use increases the risk of injury to the consumer. Marijuana use does not. Many people who have consumed alcohol or know others who have consumed alcohol would not be surprised to hear that it greatly increases the risk of serious injury. Research published in 2011 in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, found that 36 percent of hospitalized assaults and 21 percent of all injuries are attributable to alcohol use by the injured person. Meanwhile, the American Journal of Emergency Medicine reported that lifetime use of marijuana is rarely associated with emergency room visits. According to the British Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, this is because: “Cannabis differs from alcohol … in one major respect. It does not seem to increase risk-taking behavior. This means that cannabis rarely contributes to violence either to others or to oneself, whereas alcohol use is a major factor in deliberate self-harm, domestic accidents and violence.” Interestingly enough, some research has even shown that marijuana use has been associated with a decreased risk of injury.

Impact on the Community:

  • Alcohol use contributes to aggressive and violent behavior. Marijuana use does not. Studies have repeatedly shown that alcohol, unlike marijuana, contributes to the likelihood of aggressive and violent behavior. An article published in the Journal of Addictive Behaviors reported that “alcohol is clearly the drug with the most evidence to support a direct intoxication-violence relationship,” whereas “cannabis reduces the likelihood of violence during intoxication.”
  • Alcohol use is a major factor in violent crimes. Marijuana use is not. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism estimates that 25% to 30% of violent crimes in the United States are linked to the use of alcohol. According to a report from the U.S. Dept. of Justice, that translates to about 5,000,000 alcohol-related violent crimes per year. By contrast, the government does not even track violent acts specifically related to marijuana use, as the use of marijuana has not been associated with violence. (Of course, we should note that marijuana prohibition, by creating a widespread criminal market, is associated with acts of violence.)
  • Alcohol use contributes to the likelihood of domestic abuse and sexual assault. Marijuana use does not. Alcohol is a major contributing factor in the prevalence of domestic violence and sexual assault. This is not to say that alcohol causes these problems; rather, its use makes it more likely that an individual prone to such behavior will act on it. For example, a study conducted by the Research Institute on Addictions found that among individuals who were chronic partner abusers, the use of alcohol was associated with significant increases in the daily likelihood of male-to-female physical aggression, but the use of marijuana was not. Specifically, the odds of abuse were eight times higher on days when men were drinking; the odds of severe abuse were 11 times higher. The website for the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) identifies alcohol as the “most commonly used chemical in crimes of sexual assault” and provides information on an array of other drugs that have been linked to sexual violence. Given the fact that marijuana is so accessible and widely used, it is quite telling that the word “marijuana” is not included.[6]

—Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, [10]

Opposition

The group, Big Marijuana. Big Mistake. Vote No on 2, is officially opposing Ballot Measure 2.[11]

Noon22014.png

Arguments

The group Big Marijuana. Big Mistake. Vote No on 2 lists the following reasons why voters should turn down Ballot Measure 2 on their website:

  • Commercialization. With the legalization of marijuana comes mass marketing, advertising, and storefront properties. Such a vastly different, commercial landscape will significantly change the social norms and perceptions of our communities.
  • Outside interests. Much like the tobacco industry, the legalization of recreational marijuana will bring to Alaska extensive industrialization from Outside, corporate entities. Big Marijuana won’t be about homegrown local businesses. Rather, it will be led by Outside companies seeking to make a profit off Alaskans. This initiative is being funded by big-dollar interests from the Lower 48, who see Alaska as a domino in their quest to legalize marijuana nationwide.
  • More government oversight and costs. This initiative will impose significant costs on Alaskans. The State of Alaska estimates that if passed, the initiative could increase costs to state government by more than $7 million per year in regulation and other increases in state government costs: Statement of Costs. This only represents a fraction of the costs that marijuana commercialization will impose on Alaska families, businesses, health, schools, productivity and more.
  • Health effects. There is a growing amount of evidence that marijuana is harmful. Since legalization in Colorado, there have been dozens of reports surrounding the negative impacts of marijuana and marijuana concentrates on the health of children and adults. Public health science is clear—if the initiative passes, rates of youth marijuana use will increase. In addition, recent studies link marijuana use to abnormalities in the brain.
  • Impact on rural Alaska. The initiative as written eliminates the local option for communities in Alaska to be “dry” in regard to marijuana. It specifically allows individuals to transport and possess up to one ounce of marijuana anywhere and everywhere in Alaska, preventing villages and other communities from choosing to be marijuana-free.
  • Alcohol. The proponents of marijuana legalization would like to make the issue about whether marijuana is worse than alcohol. This is not the point. Alcohol is and will be legal. For a state that already struggles with substance abuse, why add another legal drug to the mix?
  • Continued illegality. This initiative will not eliminate the black market for marijuana, as proponents suggest. The black market is still thriving in Colorado despite legalization. In fact, law enforcement and drug dealers in Colorado say legalization has actually enhanced the black market because street vendors, who aren't taxed, can sell the drug cheaper.[6]

—Big Marijuana. Big Mistake. Vote No on 2, [11]

Path to the ballot

See also: Laws governing the initiative process in Alaska

Supporters of the initiative were required to collect 30,169 signatures by January 9, 2014 in order to land the measure on the ballot. The group, The Alaska Campaign to Regulate Marijuana, said it turned in approximately 46,000 signatures on Wednesday, January 8, a day ahead of the state's deadline.[3] On February 4, 2014, Alaska's Division of Elections confirmed that enough valid signatures were verified to send the measure to the ballot.[1]

Ballot placement

All four measures set to appear on the state ballot in 2014 were originally slated to appear on the August 19 primary ballot. However, only one, a veto referendum, appeared on the primary ballot. The three others, including Ballot Measure 2, are now scheduled to appear on the November 4 general election ballot. The 2014 legislative session began on January 21, 2014, and was scheduled to conclude on April 20, 2014. Instead, it ended on April 25, 2014, five days after its scheduled conclusion.[12] Because lawmakers couldn't agree on an education bill, the 2014 session surpassed its deadline. Since legislators failed to end the session on time, the three initiated state statutes were pushed from the August primary ballot to the general one in November, as Alaska law mandates at least 120 days separate the end of the legislative session and Election Day for initiatives.[13] Voter turn out for general elections has historically been greater than that of the primaries. Therefore, more residents may be casting votes on this issue than if the question appeared on the primary ballot.[14]

Related measures

See also

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References

  1. 1.0 1.1 Yahoo News, "Alaska measure to legalize pot qualifies for August vote," February 4, 2014
  2. Alaska Dispatch, "Marijuana Policy Project plans Alaska ballot measure to decriminalize pot in 2014," accessed January 16, 2013
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 StarTribune, "Organizers turn in signatures for Alaska marijuana legalization initiative," January 8, 2014
  4. 4.0 4.1 Daily News Miner, "Alaska Lt Gov. certifies application for legalizing marijuana," June 14, 2013
  5. 5.0 5.1 State of Alaska Division of Elections, "Ballot Measures Appearing on the 2014 General Election Ballot," accessed August 18, 2014
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
  7. Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, "Full Initiative Text," accessed August 18, 2014
  8. 8.0 8.1 Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, "About: Alaska Marijuana Laws," accessed August 18, 2014
  9. OregonLive.com, "With national backing, marijuana advocates file legalization measure," October 25, 2013
  10. 10.0 10.1 Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, "Facts," accessed August 18, 2014
  11. 11.0 11.1 Big Marijuana. Big Mistake. Vote No on 2, "Homepage," accessed August 18, 2014
  12. The Alaska State Legislature, "Homepage," accessed April 22, 2014
  13. ABC 7 News, Denver, "Alaska legal pot vote pushed to fall; would make it third state to legalize recreational marijuana," April 21, 2014
  14. Liberty Voice, "Alaska Will Vote on the Legalization of Recreational Marijuana in November," July 20, 2014