Marijuana Initiative Gets Closer To Ballot

An initiative to set up a legal market for marijuana has cleared a hurdle for getting on the ballot.

Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell certified that the initiative language conformed with Alaska statute this afternoon, just one day short of his deadline. That means initiative sponsors can start circulating petitions to show that a sufficient number of Alaskans want to vote on the issue. The sponsors need more than 30,000 signatures to do that.

Tim Hinterberger is a professor at the University of Alaska Anchorage, an occasional user of marijuana, and a sponsor of the initiative. He says that wins in states like Washington and Colorado show that public opinion is shifting toward legalization.

“I would love for people in Alaska, you know like me, who have no reason to hide it, to come out of the closet and say, ‘Yeah, this is ridiculous. Let’s make this legal.'”

This isn’t Alaska’s first pro-marijuana initiative. In 2000, a similar proposition appeared on the ballot, but barely cleared 40 percent of the vote. Sponsors tried again in 2004, and closed the gap by a few percentage points. Hinterberger thinks this initiative has some advantages over past efforts. It doesn’t give amnesty to people who have violated drug laws, and it also provides a roadmap for establishing a legal marijuana market.

“The language has been carefully crafted to provide a lot of guidance to the state on how cannabis should be regulated, and taxed, and made available. So, it’s just really a better thought-out approach than in the past.”

Just like with drinking, you would have to be over 21 to consume marijuana. It would be sold in stores, and subject to a lot of the same rules that govern alcohol. The initiative would also allow communities to ban marijuana establishments through their own city laws.

Right now, Alaskans are allowed to possess small amounts of marijuana in their own homes, but the sale of marijuana is still a crime.

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