Quoth Ravin


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.


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  1. “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,”

    Because we know just how dangerous the old, less potent marijuana was right??

    This has got to be pretty insulting to the marijuana growers of yesteryear. To insinuate that they couldnt get it right and grow quality weed.

    Right, because in the past 20 years we have learned more then the previous few thousand years combined.

    Doesnt explain why the past dozen or so Cannibis Cup winners were using strains or variants of that are at lease a few hundred years old.

    Seems this guy just doesnt know much about the drug hes trying to prohibit.

    Betcha he just loves those artificial ‘legal’ drugs that give great side effects like rectal bleeding, hair loss, uncontrolable bowel movements…

    Those dangerous munchie side effects from weed… please government save me from them…

  2. I think you’re right!

  3. Apparently, the State of Alaska doesn’t get to make laws against people hurting themselves, due to privacy considerations. But it can override privacy when there is a risk that one might enable another to hurt himself.

    Whether the line for personal use is drawn at 4oz or at some smaller amount due to alleged improvements in the product, that line is drawn with the assertion that the substance in question is harmful. How do we establish a definiton of “harmful”?

    Comparative harm v. alcohol or nicotine is the easiest, but still open to interpretation. Even a more absolute-sounding measure, the lethal dose, depends on individual resistance/tolerance, and might not be absolute. Harm can really only be assessed after it has occurred.

    If we can’t agree on harm, then should the State be making laws reliant upon that concept?

  4. Ya know……
    Sooner or later some biologist is going to insert the TLC producing gene into the tomato.

  5. I hope after we get the TLC gene in the tomato we get the THC gene in there, because I am going to be really fucking stoned if Lisa “Left Eye” Lopez and the rest of TLC start making their girl-group comback in gardens everywhere!

  6. I don’t want no shrub
    Shrub is a plant that can’t get no…

    I’ll stop.

  7. Mark,

    The definition of “harmful” is certainly dubious. However, there is not one single documented and confirmed instance of anyone dying from marijuana/THC. Ever.

    (Go on folks. Try to find it.)

    And alcohol kills how many people every year?

    I study nicotine for a living…and though it is massively diluted in cigarettes, nicotine in its pure form is an extremely potent toxin that can kill you in a most unpleasant fashion. Tolerance has nothing to do with it.

    So the comparison really isn’t that open to interpretation.

    Jacob is absolutely right in asserting that greater potency marijuana is a safety improvement. However, existing law clearly demonstrates that “harmfulness”–however we choose to define it–is not and has never been a consideration in deciding what the government will and will not prohibit.

  8. While imparting ‘learning’ to spaghetti-sauce and pizza eaters is a noble goal, the probable side effects from inserting the TLC gene in the tomato include; two day long withdrawal symptoms where the victim is compelled to invade a room in a neighbors house and spend up to $1,000 ardently redecorating.

  9. I am sure the prosecution will put experienced special experts on the stand to prove its harm case. So, I wonder when John Walters and Barrey McCaffery will receive their Alaska subpoenas?

  10. as a defense attorney in AK, I can say that AK is a great place to live and practice. Regarding the comments about the proof of harm, the State would be generally estopped from putting on such evidence. Trial courts hear evidence and appellate courts determine whether trial courts followed the rules (at least, that’s how it is supposed to work). As such, the Supreme Court would not be able to consider any evidence about how powerful mj now is unless that evidence was introduced in some way at the trial court proceedings.

    having read the decision, that does not seem likely. The case was a straightforward possession case and the defense tried to have the charges dismissed because of the Ravin decision. The trial court refused and the matter went to trial. The question of mj’s harmfulness was not raised, as it was in the original Ravin proceedings.

    Quite frankly, I do not expect the Supreme Court to reverse the Ravin decision. The Attorney General has publically asked the feds for help in prosecuting mj cases because these smaller cases can’t be prosecuted in State court. this, of course, is a Republican administration.

    Next year, AK voters are going to get the chance to reverse the statutes criminalizing mj. If they vote for it, I may have to go to that great AK town of Tok (pronounced appropriately for these circumstances).

  11. Brian: As I read Ravin, harmfulness is the justification for allowing a State violation of the consitutional right to privacy. The greater the harm, the stronger the State’s interest. I understand the cause for debate, but feel it ultimately irrelevant, that the state has no business regulating my self-harm, nor any limiting my capacity to provide the tools/materials for self-harm to another.

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