Alaska Medical Marijuana Act, Measure 8 (1998)

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The Alaska Medical Marijuana Initiative, also known as Measure 8, was on the November 3, 1998 ballot in Alaska as an indirect initiated state statute, where it was approved. The measure allowed "allow patients to use marijuana for certain medical purposes."[1]

Election results

Alaska Measure 8 (1998)
Approveda Yes 131,586 58.67%

Election results via: Alaska Department of Elections

Text of measure

The language appeared on the ballot as:[1]

This bill would allow patients to use marijuana for certain medical purposes. A doctor must find that the patient has a debilitating medical condition that might benefit from marijuana. An eligible minor could use medical marijuana only under the consent and control of a parent. There would be limits on how much medical marijuana a patient could possess. Patients and their primary care-givers who comply with this law would not be guilty of a crime. The state would create a confidential registry of patients who may use medical marijuana. Non-medical use of marijuana would still be a crime.

Yes [ ]
No [ ][2]



M. Walter Johnson, MD, Arndt von Hippel, MD and Frederick J. Hillman, MD, all of Alaskans for Medical Rights, wrote an argument in support of the initiative found in the state's official voter guide:

Yes On #8 Helps Terminally Ill Patients And Others Suffering Debilitating Medical Conditions. Ballot Measure #8 would allow patients to use marijuana as a medicine if they have a debilitating disease and an authorization from their doctor. Dozens of scientific studies, including government and university-sponsored studies, have shown that marijuana can help patients with cancer and other diseases to get relief from severe pain, nausea or muscle spasticity.

Yes On #8 would give physicians the option of authorizing medical use of marijuana for patients in pain, protecting them from being treated as criminals. At the same time, Ballot Measure #8 retains current laws against non-medical use of marijuana, and contains strict controls on medical use. This commonsense measure will help thousands of Alaskans and future Alaskans with debilitating diseases.

Yes On #8 Will Help Many Cancer Chemotherapy Patients. Currently, one in three chemotherapy patients discontinues treatment because of severe nausea and vomiting. When standard anti-nausea drugs fail, marijuana can often ease a patient's nausea and permit continued treatment. New scientific evidence is emerging that helps prove marijuana's value as an alternative treatment for other medical conditions, including stroke and neuropathic pain.

Marijuana Would Still Be Illegal For Non-Medical Use. Ballot Measure #8 provides full protection against abuse of the new law:

Non-medical (or fraudulent medical) use of marijuana would still be a crime.

Only licensed physicians could authorize medical marijuana use.

Amounts that patients could possess would be strictly limited.

No use would be allowed in public or the work place.

A State of Alaska registration and ID card system would be established for medical users.

Only specific diseases would be covered, including cancer, acquired immune deficiency syndrome, multiple sclerosis, glaucoma, epilepsy, or severe pain and nausea.

Doctors Should Be Able To Make Recommendations To Help Their Patients. The opponents of Ballot Measure #8 believe that doctors shouldn't be able to recommend medical marijuana for any medical conditions. However doctors are currently allowed to prescribe morphine and even cocaine. Shouldn't we trust them to recommend a less dangerous substance like medical marijuana?

Yes On #8 Is A Humane Policy For Alaskans Suffering Extreme Pain. Alaska law should show compassion for people who suffer severe medical conditions. Yet while polls show most Alaskans support the medical use of marijuana, both patients and doctors are now subject to prosecution for using or even recommending it. Please vote to join the 24 other states that have adopted a policy of compassion.

Please Vote YES On Ballot Measure #8[2]

—M. Walter Johnson, MD, Arndt von Hippel, MD and Frederick J. Hillman, MD[1]



Wevley William Shea of Anchorage, Alaska, wrote an argument in opposition to the initiative found in the state's official voter guide:

Marijuana is a debilitating illegal drug. In 1990 the citizens of Alaska voted to "recriminalize" the use of marijuana. Now, at a time when illegal drug use is destroying the very foundation of our Nation and this great State - the family unit - this Act is attempting to legalize marijuana as a "medicine."

This inept Act allows the "patients" and "care-givers" to grow their own "pot." The Act has no provisions to protect against impurities from "street grass." The Act then attempts to hold patients and care-givers, as well as physicians, "harmless" from the use of marijuana. The Act is a license to grow, use, transport and sell marijuana. It is a bad law.

Dronabinol (marinol) is an approved, controlled drug that is the principal "psychoactive" substance in marijuana. Physicians prescribe dronabinol for symptoms ranging from nausea associated with cancer chemotherapy to anorexia in AIDS patients. Due to the "psychoactive" affects of dronabinol, patient supervision, if possible in an inpatient setting is required. Marijuana is no substitute.

The legalizing of street-grade marijuana, grown by its drug-user patients and care-givers, as allowed by this Act borders on "pure folly." What physician would prescribe an illegal drug to patients when there are no quality controls on the purity of the drug? No physician can ignore a basic tenant of medical practice: "Quality care in the best interest of the patient."

This Act is attempting to deceive Alaskans into thinking we are voting for compassion of those having "debilitating" illnesses. The Act is attempting to use the sick, infirm and dying to pry open the door to drug legalization. From 1991 to 1996 marijuana use nationwide among eighth graders tripled from 6% to 18%. Any legalization of marijuana sends the wrong message to the youth of Alaska. Marijuana is the gateway drug to cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine. As a result, this Act is opposed by local, state and federal law enforcement officers.

The use of illegal drugs, including marijuana, leads to lack of individual self respect, as well as lack of respect of others and society in general. Ultimately, marijuana and other illegal drugs destroy an individual's mind, as well as the "soul." Since marijuana users are not able to distinguish between "right from wrong" the burden of use of illegal drugs is ultimately placed on each of us individually and society as a whole.

Legalization of marijuana tells our youth that adults believe illegal drugs can be used responsibly. Within that atmosphere it is very difficult, if not impossible, to reach our youth and convince them that "doing drugs is bad." The youth of Alaska need our support.

Do not be fooled, this Act is not about compassion or care for the sick, infirm and dying. The Act is an attempt to protect those who grow, transport, distribute, sell, possess or use marijuana. Please vote against this Act.[2]

—Wevley William Shea[1]

Path to the ballot

See also: Laws governing the initiative process in Alaska
  • Application was received in the Lieutenant Governor's Office on October 29, 1997.
  • A copy of the application and signatures were sent to the Department of Law and Division of Elections on October 30, 1997.
  • The Division of Elections determined that there were a sufficient number of sponsor signatures on November 5, 1997.
  • The application was certified on November 21, 1996.
  • Petition booklets were issued to the initiative committee on November 25, 1997.
  • The one year filing deadline was November 25, 1998.
  • Petition booklets were submitted to the Division of Elections on January 12, 1998.
  • Lieutenant Governor Ulmer certified the petition for this initiative as properly filed on April 12, 1998.
  • The initiative appeared on the 1998 general election ballot.

See also

Suggest a link

External links


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Alaska Department of Elections, "1998 Official Election Pamphlet: Ballot Measures," accessed February 5, 2015
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.