Alaska's Court of Appeals has refused to reconsider its ruling that possession of marijuana in the home for personal use is protected by the state constitution's privacy clause. That was what the state Supreme Court concluded in the 1975 case Ravin v. State, and for a decade and a half Alaska had the country's most liberal marijuana law, allowing private possession of several ounces. A 1990 ballot initiative ostensibly recriminalized pot possession, but last summer the Court of Appeals said voters could not override the Supreme Court's ruling.
Asking for a rehearing, Attorney General Gregg Renkes argued that Ravin did not invalidate the state's ban on private possession of marijuana; it merely provided a defense for some residents facing pot charges. As the Court of Appeals put it, "the State argues that Ravin created a system in which the constitutionality of marijuana prosecutions would be decided by trial judges on a case-by-case basis." On Friday the Court of Appeals ruled that such an approach, which "would seemingly put us on the road to legal chaos," is contrary to the plain language of the Supreme Court's decision.
The next stop in this case is the state Supreme Court itself, where Renkes is expected to argue that marijuana is more potent, and therefore more dangerous, than it used to be, giving the government a more compelling justification for banning private pot smoking than it had in 1975. But since the respiratory effects of smoking are the main health hazard posed by marijuana, greater potency, providing more power per puff, could more reasonably be seen as a safety improvement.