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article imageAlaska may be next U.S. state to legalize pot

By Ken Hanly     Feb 6, 2014 in Politics
Juneau - Advocates for legalized marijuana in Alaska have gathered enough signatures to ensure that the issue will appear on the ballot for elections to be held on August 19 this year.
As of February 4, a petition that would legalize pot for adults reached more than the 30,169 signatures required to be put on the ballot in upcoming elections. Gail Fenumiai, the director of Alaska's Division of Elections, said that it was just a matter of getting the certification documents signed by the lieutenant governor.
If the measure passes Alaska will be third state to legalize marijuana in spite of a continuing prohibition of marijuana at the federal level. Colorado and Washington have already passed legislation legalizing marijuana. Current federal law considers marijuana to be a Schedule 1 narcotic in the same group as heroin or ecstasy.
Although federal law has not changed, Obama said recently that he thought pot was no more dangerous than alcohol in an interview with David Remnick, editor of the New Yorker magazine: “As has been well documented, I smoked pot as a kid, and I view it as a bad habit and a vice, not very different from the cigarettes that I smoked as a young person up through a big chunk of my adult life. I don’t think it is more dangerous than alcohol."
The Alaska bill is modeled after that of Colorado. It would let adult residents have up to 28 grams or one ounce of marijuana. Adults could grow up to six plants as well. The law also paves the way for a system of taxation and regulation of sales of the drug. A study estimates that the Colorado state government could gain an extra $10 billion annually by 2018. Private companies associated with marijuana sales such as MediaSwipe saw their share prices soar since marijuana was legalized.
When marijuana was made legal in Colorado on January 1 this year sales surpassed $1 million on the first day. If the Alaska petition is successful the state intends to levy a $50 dollar tax per ounce on the pot and will begin implementing rules for marijuana sales in stores within nine months. Alaska already has rules for medicinal marijuana.
Spokesperson for the legalization campaign Taylor Bickford told the Alaska Dispatch earlier in the week: "It appears voters will have the opportunity in August to replace the failed policies of marijuana prohibition with a system in which marijuana is regulated and taxed like alcohol in Alaska," At present, state laws permit officials to jail anyone found in possession of marijuana outside their homes for up to 90 days and for fines up to $2,000. The new law would not allow marijuana users to smoke in public but they would not be charged for having small amounts of marijuana in their possession.
A decade ago polls showed that only 38 percent of residents favored decriminalization of marijuana. In 2010 a poll showed 43 percent in favor, but in 2013 a poll showed a majority of 54 percent favored changes in state laws.
More about Alazka, marijuana legalization, Alaska petition re marijuana
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