Yesterday former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the GOP's vice presidential nominee in 2008, horrified conservative talk radio host Hugh Hewitt by saying marijuana legalization is "no big deal." Hewitt asked Palin about the legalization measure that voters in her state approved last November, saying, "What happened in Alaska? What are you people thinking there?" She replied:
We've got that libertarian streak in us, and I grew up in Alaska when pot was legal anyway. It was absolutely no big deal. I mean, you didn't smoke it because your parents would strangle you. And if you were a jock and you were, you know, a Christian going to youth group, you just didn't do it, right? I still believe that. But when it comes to picking our battles, for many of us in Alaska, legalization of marijuana just was never really a bright blip on the radar screen, so it didn't surprise me when the voters of Alaska went back to legalizing it. For some years there, it had not been legalized….
I look on the national scene and think, "Wow, of all things to be fighting over and battling over." Especially when it comes to medical marijuana, I think, "Hmm. It's just not my baby."
When Palin says, "I grew up in Alaska when pot was legal," she is referring to decriminalization of personal possession, as opposed to full legalization. In the 1975 case Ravin v. State, the Alaska Supreme Court ruled that the privacy right protected by the state constitution includes the freedom to possess and consume small amounts of marijuana at home. At that point (five years before Palin turned 16) the state legislature already had voted to decriminalize possession of an ounce or less, making that offense punishable by a fine of up to $100. After Ravin, the legislature eliminated the fine.
In 1990, when Palin was in her 20s, Alaska voters approved an initiative aimed at recriminalizing marijuana possession. The legislature later made possession of up to four ounces a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail. The ACLU of Alaska challenged recriminalization, arguing that neither voters nor legislators could override the state constitution. In 2009 the Alaska Supreme Court declined to rule on the ACLU's challenge, saying it needed an actual prosecution first.
While private possession of marijuana was legal in Alaska when Palin was a teenager, production and distribution never were. Hence it's rather misleading to suggest that Measure 2, the 2014 initiative, merely returned marijuana to its pre-1990 legal status. Measure 2 did quite a bit more than that, legalizing home cultivation along with commercial production and sales.
This is not the first time that Palin, who has admitted smoking pot in her youth, has suggested that cannabis consumers should not be treated as criminals. "If somebody's gonna smoke a joint in their house and not do anybody else any harm," she said in 2010, "then perhaps there are other things our cops should be looking at." But at the time she also said she opposed legalization because it would "encourage especially our young people to think that it was OK to just go ahead and use it."
[via The Huffington Post]