Alaska Primed To Become Third State To Legalize

Feb 8, 2014

Alaska is poised to become the third state to legal­ize retail mar­i­juana after pro-pot advo­cates this week cleared the sig­na­ture hur­dle to place an ini­tia­tive on the August bal­lot. The Com­mit­tee to Reg­u­late Mar­i­juana Like Alco­hol in Alaska hit 31,593 valid sig­na­tures Tues­day, well above the 30,169 sig­na­tures required to place the mea­sure before vot­ers. The ini­tia­tive is expected to appear on the Aug. 19 pri­mary bal­lot once a final count is cer­ti­fied by the state. Alaska fol­lows in the foot­steps of Col­orado and Wash­ing­ton, where vot­ers approved mea­sures to reg­u­late the sale of recre­ational mar­i­juana for adults in Novem­ber 2012. Col­orado unveiled the nation’s first retail pot shops in Jan. 1, and Wash­ing­ton is expected to begin mar­i­juana sales in June. Depend­ably Repub­li­can Alaska would become the red­dest state to approve retail mar­i­juana, but Com­mit­tee spokesman Tay­lor Bick­ford pre­dicted the legal­iza­tion effort would appeal to the electorate’s lib­er­tar­ian streak. “Alaska vot­ers have a large degree of respect for per­sonal lib­erty and free­dom, and that’s reflected in the poll num­bers we’ve been see­ing,” said Mr. Bick­ford. A newly released sur­vey shows the idea already has sig­nif­i­cant pub­lic sup­port. A Pub­lic Pol­icy Polling sur­vey posted Wednes­day found 55 per­cent of reg­is­tered vot­ers polled agree with legal­iz­ing pot for recre­ational pur­poses, with 39 per­cent opposed. Oppos­ing the mea­sure is Smart Approaches to Mar­i­juana, a year-old group founded by for­mer Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy, Rhode Island Demo­c­rat, that favors decrim­i­nal­iza­tion for pot smok­ers but not legal­iza­tion. “We’ve been approached by Alaskan treat­ment and pre­ven­tion providers to offer advice,” said SAM co-founder Kevin Sabet. So far Alaska’s lead­ing elected offi­cials haven’t said much about the issue, although the Mar­i­juana Pol­icy Project is lob­by­ing for the sup­port for Rep. Don Young, Alaska Repub­li­can, who backed a House bill last year to pro­tect mar­i­juana busi­nesses from fed­eral pros­e­cu­tion as long as they com­ply with state law. “It’s a states’ rights issue, period,” Mr. Young told the Alaska Dis­patch. The mar­i­juana mea­sure would appear on the pri­mary bal­lot along­side a num­ber of other high-profile con­tests. Repub­li­cans are wag­ing a con­tested Sen­ate pri­mary to decide who will face vul­ner­a­ble Demo­c­ra­tic Sen. Mark Begich in Novem­ber. The bal­lot is also expected to include ini­tia­tives on repeal­ing a tax cut for oil com­pa­nies and boost­ing the min­i­mum wage, which could increase voter turnout. The Alaska ini­tia­tive hews closely to the lan­guage in the Col­orado and Wash­ing­ton mea­sures, which legal­ize small amounts of mar­i­juana for adults 21 and over. The sale and cul­ti­va­tion would be reg­u­lated by the state in a man­ner sim­i­lar to that of liquor. The state Alco­holic Bev­er­age Con­trol Board would have reg­u­la­tory over­sight over recre­ational mar­i­juana, but the state leg­is­la­ture would have the option of estab­lish­ing and shift­ing author­ity to a Mar­i­juana Con­trol Board. The mea­sure also calls for a $50 per ounce excise tax for sales or trans­fers of mar­i­juana from a cul­ti­va­tion facil­ity or a store. Local gov­ern­ments could opt out by ban­ning retail sales in their juris­dic­tions, although mar­i­juana use and pos­ses­sion would still be legal. The cam­paign doesn’t have an esti­mate yet on how much rev­enue would be gen­er­ated under the ini­tia­tive, but “what we do know is that a lot of jobs are going to be cre­ated, there will be a sig­nif­i­cant eco­nomic boost, and the state will have a new source of tax rev­enue,” said Mr. Bick­ford. The biggest losers would be those now prof­it­ing from mar­i­juana sales, he said, namely dope deal­ers and crim­i­nal syn­di­cates. “We expect to put a lot of drug deal­ers out of busi­ness by sell­ing mar­i­juana over the counter in a reg­u­lated mar­ket instead of on the black mar­ket,” said Mr. Bick­ford. Source: Wash­ing­ton Times (DC) Author: Valerie Richard­son, The Wash­ing­ton Times Pub­lished: Feb­ru­ary 6, 2014 Copy­right: 2014 The Wash­ing­ton Times, LLC Web­site: http://​www​.wash​times​.com/ Con­tact: letters@​washingtontimes.​com

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Alaska Primed To Become Third State To Legalize

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