Some 46,000 supporters of a ballot initiative to legalize cannabis turned in their signatures to election officials on Wednesday. This marks Alaska's first step towards an August ballot on the matter. Some 30,000 validated signatures are required to take the issue to a vote.
Advocates of the weed believe that the time is right for legalizing marijuana. The group that initiated the move for legalization calls itself the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana. It is mainly funded by the Marijuana Policy Project, a Washington D.C. based marijuana reform group.
Proponents of the campaign pointed out that marijuana was already being used in Alaska; legalizing marijuana would “regulate and tax it” just like alcohol is treated.
Meanwhile, opponents of the recreational use of marijuana say Alaska’s marijuana laws are already liberal enough. Marijuana use has been legal in Alaska since 1998 when voters voted to legalize its use for medical purposes. Since then, there has been a strong debate in Alaska on whether to ban or legalize it.
This is not the first time legalization for recreational use of marijuana has been on the ballot. In 2000, the initiative got 41% approval vote and another attempt in 2004 garnered 44 % of the vote.
The supporters of the campaign now think the country has changed since then. According to Mason Tvert of the Marijuana Policy Project, polls show that majority of Alaska residents are not opposed to legalization of cannabis.
Bill Parker, one of the initiative’s sponsors and former Department of Corrections deputy commissioner said the current marijuana laws in Alaska are contradictory: "In the insane way it fell together, it's legal to have it in your home but not to acquire it. And you can legally acquire it with a medical prescription but there's no place to buy it."
If marijuana use does become legal, persons over 21-years-old will be allowed to buy up to an ounce of marijuana or grow up to 6 plants for personal use. However, users can only be allowed to smoke it on private properties. Only licensed sellers will be allowed to sell it. Alaska's ballot initiative mirrors that of Colorado's 2012 initiative which led to the state's legalization of marijuana on January 1st of this year.
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