You Can Keep Your Weed Up There

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Canada may not be the only northern jurisdiction moving toward an embarrassingly tolerant policy regarding marijuana use. In Alaska, where private possession of several ounces was legal for a decade and a half, a judge has ruled that it still is.

In the 1975 case Ravin v. State, the Alaska Supreme Court concluded that the right to privacy guaranteed by the state constitution included possession of marijuana in one's home, provided the amount did not exceed the threshold for "intent to deliver"–four ounces at the time, since raised to eight ounces. A 1990 voter initiative ostensibly overturned that decision, recriminalizing possession for personal use. But on June 25 Superior Court Judge Richard Savell ruled that voters did not have the authority to override the constitution.

The decision, reported on Friday by the Fairbanks News-Miner, threw out the conviction of 42-year-old Scott A. Thomas, who was charged with growing pot at his home in Fairbanks last summer. A jury had found him guilty of misdemeanor possession involving 2.6 ounces of marijuana.

"A direct conflict in the law exists between the right to privacy guaranteed under the Alaska Constitution and the statutory prohibition," Savell concluded, adding, "Ravin stands."

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  1. Good for Alaska. But how long until some unsuspecting Alaskan herbalist, exercising his state-guaranteed privacy right, gets busted by the feds? I wonder if the defense will be allowed to show the jury Ravin, Judge Savell’s ruling, or even the state constitution.

  2. Not to worry, I’m sure Ashcroft will be conducting a door to door search of every home in AK. The fact that you live in AK should be enough to merit a warrant.

  3. Jim:

    The FFs didn’t grow hemp for smoking purposes. For them it was a source of fiber for making rope, textiles, and paper. It was probably the best source of fiber for rope until the advent of modern synthetics such as nylon and polypropylene. Hemp could still be used for many of these applications today if growing it weren’t hampered by our idiotic drug laws.

  4. Thanks, FredH. I am aware of why they grew it. Of course, a more provocative speculation may be done about whether or not they ever smoked it. Potheads like to think so, of course, but from what I’ve heard, the commercial crop variety isn’t so great for toking purposes.

  5. Hemp vs. Weed:

    I don’t know why this is so hard for people to understand. The two plants aren’t even the same species. Yes, they’re related, but hemp has very little THC, whereas Mary-you-wanna does.

    However, it seems like both smokers and jackboots can’t tell the difference. I remember a Brickbat in Reason that most of the native hemp in Maine is extinct because lots of “drug eradication programs” systematically burned them out in the name of keeping people off the wacky weed.

    Oh, yay, I feel so much safer now.

    Hey, I hear that Golden Eagles give you a pretty good high when eaten–can we get the DEA to do mass kills of Bald Eagles? DEA vs. EPA–fun for the whole family.

  6. i do believe you’re mistaken sandy hemp and marijuana are both cannabis sativa. technically “marijuana” is the mexican word for the flowers of the hemp plant. what you are thinking of is that they are different “varieties”. just as there are many types of roses (red, white, big, small, etc.) they are all still roses and can be interbred.
    maybe the big ff’s didn’t smoke weed but surely someone did back then. there were plenty of sailors who traveled to regions of the world where they could sample drugs like weed, hash, opium and god knows what else. some of them had to come back and go ‘ wow a field of hemp i think i’ll smoke some.” lol. LEGALIZE IT!!!!!!

  7. For a non-smoker of all things dope, but sympathetic to those who partake, I find the news that Alaska has a sane pot policy on the books and upheld in the courts thoroughly satisfying. I am especially heartened to see legislators in my own states house cutting the funding of drug task forces that have unjustly imprisoned blacks and shot innocent citizens rousted from their homes in the middle of the night without identifying themselves as police. I am likewise happy to piss upon any and all bombast arguing to the contrary in public and in private.

    Willie Nelson no doubt is smiling while he reads his paper on the tour bus.

  8. Any chance of Richard Savell being nominated for the US Supreme Court? Oh, sorry, I was living in a fantasy world for a minute.

  9. now if a state with a reasonable climate would only do the same i’d pack my things and move.

    but, seriously, very good news.

  10. i wonder whether the networks will ;pick this up

    and how does ted stevens, inestimable son of the tundra that he is, feel about all this?

  11. Good job on the headline

  12. Even though I don’t partake in the weed, I’m happy sanity is slowly returning with regard to drug laws.

    However, it seems that just as the courts have permitted all manner of congressional interference in the name of “interstate commerce”, the courts are overturning that interference in the name of “the right to privacy.” Both are suspect, constitutionally. We shouldn’t let our joy at seeing anti-pot and anti-gay legislation overturned cloud our judgment with regard to these important constitutional issues.

  13. Stay off the weed honey. I don’t want to see anything happen to that lovely ‘toe of yours. Keep tuckin’ the muffin.

  14. What is very heartening about this is that the AK Supreme Court had the cajones to stand up to “democracy” and uphold the constitution. Maybe SCOTUS could take a lesson from it’s little brother.

  15. “Pat” is a deliberately androgynous (is that the right word?) pseudonym. Maybe I’m a she-Pat, maybe I’m a he-Pat who just likes Cameltoes. It is an enigma.

    BTW, the “cloud your judgment” remark was not intended as a pun, although it’s not a bad one I guess.

    Pat

  16. I took “Pat” to be a verb, and “Pat cameltoe” as a suggestion/command. I’m now off to obey…

  17. Well, yes, that’s part of it, too.

  18. The article refers to a right to privacy in the state constitution, not the federal one.

    Whether or not there is indeed such a right explicitly stated in the Alaska constitution is a good question – anyone know?

  19. There is a right to privacy enshrined in the constitution, in the form of the Forth Amendment right to be free of unreasonable search and seizure. This right however has no implications for the justifications for specific crimes – after all if the government has good reason to believe you’ve been toking and butt-fucking in the privacy of your own home then they can still intrude and enforce the law.

    I think these issues really fall under the (completely ignored) Ninth Amendment. Although it isn’t really clear the founders wanted to recognize as rights the things that most of us today think should be recognized – after all they apparently tolerated slavery and legal inequality for women. Although, I have heard that some of the FF’s grew hemp.

  20. Maybe we’ll start hearing more Johnny Horton on alternative radio now. “North, to Alaska, a-go North, the rush is on…”

    Good for the Alaska Supremes.

    I am going to have to look further into this, however. I want to know more about why the electorate didn’t have the authority to override the Constitution. I would have thought that, given the obvious constitutional issues in play at the time, the voters would have approved a constitutional amendment. It must have been a regular statute that they approved, I guess, which would have been subordinate to the constitution. Let’s hope that the judge wasn’t saying that the voters were not authorized to change their own state constitution. That’s tar-n-feathers talk! 🙂

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