by Kelly L. Drew

I support Ballot Measure 2 because of a moral obligation to protect our right to privacy, to make marijuana available for medicinal use and to protect families from consequences of current marijuana laws.

As a mother, I want my child to know the difference between marijuana and hard drugs, and I believe Measure 2 makes this distinction. As an Alaskan, I want to feel safe in the privacy of my own home as guaranteed by our state constitution. Measure 2 reaffirms this right and will stop federal Drug Enforcement Administration raids on family homes. As a biomedical scientist, I am committed to making the most effective medicines available to those who need it. Measure 2 will send a second message to our legislators that we want marijuana available for those who need it for medical reasons.

* Current laws do not keep marijuana away from our children. Evidence suggests that marijuana is easily available to high school students. These surveys are supported by stories from teenagers in the Fairbanks North Star Borough who say it is easier to obtain marijuana than either beer or cigarettes, which are legally regulated. Regulating legal marijuana use and distribution for adults will eliminate the illicit market where children have equal access. In the Netherlands, where marijuana use or distribution is not treated as a crime, half as many high school students report using marijuana as in the United States. Marijuana laws put our children and adults in contact with dealers of hard drugs and fail to distinguish risks associated with marijuana from much greater risks posed by drugs such as cocaine, methamphetamine, inhalants or ecstasy.

By taking marijuana out of the hands of drug dealers, Measure 2 has the potential to reduce the use of hard drugs in Alaska by allowing adults who use marijuana to obtain it from regulated establishments instead of having to resort to the criminal market.

* Current marijuana laws pose much greater risks than marijuana use. As a scientist with 13 years experience in drug abuse research and 11 peer-reviewed scientific publications in this area, I know that legal consequences of marijuana cultivation and distribution far outweigh medical and social consequences of marijuana use. In our own community of Fairbanks, we have witnessed families devastated by legal consequences of marijuana laws. DEA agents raid homes with automatic weapons, assets are confiscated without due process and parents are separated from their children for years to decades at a time. It is a moral obligation to bring consequences of marijuana laws in line with the risks of marijuana use. Parents in prison cannot be parents.

* Medical marijuana is not available for patients. Although a medical marijuana initiative passed in 1998 with 59 percent approval by Alaska voters, subsequent legislation was written that severely limits medical use. Our legislators ignored the people of Alaska when they failed to provide a legal source of medical marijuana. Many patients have abandoned the system of registration, which invades their privacy and fails to offer them the medicine their doctors recommend. Measure 2 will send a second message to our legislators that we want marijuana made available for the seriously ill.

Alaska has a unique opportunity to lead the nation in reform of marijuana laws. This will take a concerted effort on the part of independent thinkers who value their privacy. If passed, Measure 2 will stop the arrests, and our legislators will decide how marijuana will be regulated. If this legislation is in conflict with federal law, our appeals courts will decide if Alaska or the federal government has jurisdiction over marijuana laws. Measure 2 is just one small step to reform marijuana laws and protect the privacy of Alaskans. It is an important step that I urge all Alaskans to support. Together, we can make a difference.

Kelly L. Drew holds a doctorate in the Alaska Basic Neuroscience Program at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Her opinions imply no University of Alaska endorsement.