Story by Mark Miller
Alaska and Nevada have reputations as maverick states. Alaska is the US’s final frontier, while Nevada has long had a reputation for legally allowing such vices as gambling and prostitution. Also, neither state has an income tax. It’s appropriate, then, that both states have initiatives to regulate the possession of cannabis for adults 21 and older on the November ballot.
Another parallel is that in both states—Alaska in 2000 and Nevada in 2002—similar cannabis initiatives were defeated.
About the current Alaska initiative, the Act to Decriminalize and Regulate Cannabis (Hemp Including Marijuana), Alaska HEMP’s Scot Dunnachie says, “The ballot measure will clarify the law, so state law doesn’t conflict with constitutional law.” The precise amount that adults could possess if the initiative passes would be determined by the Alaskan state legislature.
In 1975, the Alaskan Supreme Court ruled that individuals could possess up to four ounces of cannabis for private use. That decision was overturned by an initiative in 1990. Eight years later, Alaskans voted to legalize medical marijuana.
“We have a legal right to private use now, but the police can take it away,” Dunnachie explains. “You have to go to court and plead not guilty to have the case thrown out.”
The current initiative would also regulate hemp. “Farmers here are hurting, and hemp is a viable resource,” he says. “We have a budget crisis in Alaska, so a new resource would do us well.”
The initiative differs from its 2000 predecessor in several ways. The age limit for possession has been raised from 18 to 21, and the “amnesty and financial restitution” provisions for those jailed and fined for pot have been removed.
“We have professional people involved who’ve run cannabis campaigns before,” says Dunnachie confidently. “We got 40 percent of the vote in 2000, when we didn’t have an organized campaign and had minimal money.”
In Nevada, signatures to place an initiative on the ballot were still being gathered at press time, with 70,000 needed by June 15. The Committee to Regulate and Control Marijuana (CRCM) is sponsoring the initiative in conjunction with the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP).