Alaska Becomes Fourth State to Legalize Marijuana


Yes on 2

Yesterday Alaska became the fourth state to legalize marijuana for recreational use. With 74 percent of precincts reporting, 52 percent of voters favored legalization. Alaska joins Oregon and Washington, D.C., which legalized marijuana on the same day, and Colorado and Washington state, where voters approved legalization in 2012.

Alaska has taken a unique approach to marijuana since 1975, when the Alaska Supreme Court decided that the state constitution's privacy clause allows people to possess small amounts of cannabis at home for personal use without fear of arrest or punishment. But that ruling raised an obvious question: Where are people supposed to get the pot they are allowed to use?

Measure 2 answers that question with a system similar to Colorado's. It allows adults 21 or older to possess up to an ounce of marijuana at a time, grow up to six plants at home, and transfer up to an ounce at a time to other adults "without remuneration." It authorizes state-licensed growers, cannabis product manufacturers, and retailers, to be regulated by Alaska's Alcoholic Beverage Control Board or a separate agency created by the state legislature.

Alaska's tax will be $50 per ounce, collected from growers. From the government's perspective, the advantage of that approach, which is similar to the way alcohol is taxed (by volume),  is that proceeds from a given quantity of marijuana remain the same as prices drop, which is what will happen as the market develops unless something goes terribly wrong. The disadvantage, from a social engineer's perspective, is that a tax based on weight does not take potency into account (unlike alcohol taxes, which fall more heavily on liquor than on beer). In fact, a weight tax might encourage higher potency, especially as it becomes a larger and larger component of the retail price. If production costs fall as expected, Alaska's weight tax could amount to a rate of 100 percent or more within a few years, giving consumers an even bigger incentive to buy the strongest pot they can find.

Measure 2 prohibits marijuana consumption "in public," making it "a violation punishable by a fine of up to $100." The initiative does not define "in public," but that language probably will prevent people from legally consuming marijuana in any setting other than their homes. As in Colorado, the effort to keep cannabis consumption hidden will make enjoying the newly legal product especially problematic for visitors.

Like Oregon's initiative, Alaska's does not change the state's DUID rules. Under current law, blood test results can be used as evidence that someone was driving "while under the influence of" marijuana, but they are not necessarily conclusive. Alaska does not have a "per se" standard like Washington's, which makes drivers automatically guilty of DUID when the amount of THC in their blood exceeds a specified level.

Update: With 94 percent of precincts reporting, the vote breakdown for Measure 2 remains essentially the same: 52 percent in favor, 48 percent against.

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  1. West Coast…or Weed Coast? Amirite?

    1. Sure lol. I mean. I live in Ohio. I can move to Michigan and get a prescription for my PTSD. Or I could move across the country and do it for whatever. Responsibly, of course.

  2. Regulate marijuana like alcohol (if that’s really what the substance of the initiative was) is still shitty in Alaska’s case.

    1. Lol but Palin! XD

      1. Matanuska Thunderfuck!

  3. You still can’t travel between WA and AK with weed.

    1. You also can’t legally travel between WA and OR with weed…

    2. “We are going to continue to enforce federal laws in all navigable waters of the U.S.,” explained Chief Petty Officer Kip Wadlow, spokesman for the Coast Guard in Alaska.

      “Navigable waters” include any inlet, bay, channel, canal ? and yes, rivers are included ? deep enough to run a boat. “Wherever Coast Guard personnel are, we will be enforcing those laws,” Wadlow said.

      If the Coast Guard catches a boat carrying marijuana, “we can take (that person) into custody, and we can seize the drugs as well,” Wadlow said. “Depending on the amount, we’ll work with our local law enforcement partners to process that person.”

      The same holds true in the air: Because air travel is federally regulated, Bush planes can’t legally carry marijuana.

  4. They just cant help themselves…tax tax tax tax tax. Why can’t pot just be taxed via the sales tax? why does there need to be a special massive tax which does nothing but promote black market weed?

    1. There is no state sales tax in Alaska.

    2. The pro-legalization folks have polled this issue to hell, I’m sure, and come to the realization that “regulate like alcohol” is probably the best way to get it passed. Alcohol has excise taxes in pretty much every jurisdiction.

  5. Well, the fact that legal weed got approved in a fairly Republican state in a non-presidential election year is quite encouraging, regardless.

    1. Alaska has its own weird politics.

      1. Oh, I knew that already, you betcha.

  6. my roomate’s half-sister makes $82 every hour on the internet . She has been laid off for 8 months but last month her paycheck was $18474 just working on the internet for a few hours. read the article….


  7. Thanks for the update. I thought Alaska legalized pot during the Gold Rush.

  8. In my experience at Denver’s 16th Street mall, “in public” meant that by day you really didn’t see anyone smoking pot, but at night you would catch that wonderful skunky smell as you walked down the street, but it was never obvious where it was coming from.

    If you turn around and take a quick toke off a pipe and slip it back in your pocket…it isn’t really public…ammiright? lol

    1. Love the 16th Street mall, was there the end of August. Euflora is the bomb! The locals told us as long as you’re not blatant about it the cops don’t hassle you. I just went the e-cig/hash oil route and was mad toking in the light of day as we walked around. No problems. I did however catch some police brutality.

  9. Taxing pot by weight is a stupid idea. If I was a grower in Alaska I would just make hash out of my weed before selling it. For every pound of weed, 16 ounces, I can make 7 ounces of hash. That means I would save $450 in taxes. That means for every 1,000 pounds of flower I grow I save $450,000 in taxes. I flower is going for $15/gram and I sell my hash for $40/gram I’ll make a killing.

  10. Jacob, however Alaska’s unanimous Supreme Court ruling on the right to privacy, The Ravin decision, would protect private use by tourists in Alaska. When I went to Alaska in 1988 to help get Ron Paul on the ballot, The Day’s Inn in downtown Anchorage had a Russian hockey team staying on the first floor. The smell of marijuana was so pervasive that the hotel moved them to a higher floor.

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