Will Alaska Be Next to Legalize Marijuana? The Numbers Look Good

Backers of a new initiative submitted 45,000 petition signatures in support of a legalization initiative in November.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com/sarra22

Alaska may soon follow in Colorado’s groundbreaking footsteps and legalize recreational cannabis for adult use. Backers of a statewide ballot initiative to regulate use and sale of the plant submitted more than 45,000 signatures to Lieutenant Governor Mead Treadwell on Wednesday. In order to appear on the 2014 primary ballot, approximately 30,000 of those signatures will have to pass verification by state election officials.

Mason Tvert of the Marijuana Policy Project, who worked closely with the successful marijuana legalization initiative effort in Colorado, said the Rocky Mountain state is demonstrating to the rest of the nation that legalizing and regulating marijuana works.

“Voters around the country are fed up with our failed prohibition policies,” he said. “Alaska is poised to be the next state to regulate marijuana like alcohol, and it won't be long before more states follow.”

Parallel with Colorado’s regulations, the proposed initiative makes the possession of limited amounts of marijuana legal for adults 21 years of age or older and establishes a system in which marijuana is regulated similarly to alcohol.

"Regulating marijuana in Alaska will allow law enforcement officials to focus on violent and otherwise harmful crimes instead of adults who are simply choosing to use a substance objectively less harmful than alcohol,” said former Department of Corrections Deputy Commissioner Bill Parker, one of the primary sponsors of the initiative.

"Marijuana prohibition has been just as big a failure as alcohol prohibition,"Parker continued. "We are confident that voters will agree it is time for a more sensible approach that honors the ideals that unite us as Alaskans; protecting personal freedoms and a commitment to personal responsibility.”

A Public Policy poll of Alaska voters found 54 percent in support of legalization from January to February 2013. Since the successful opening of regulated Colorado pot shops, which brought in $5 million in a single week, it’s likely that number will only increase.

"The proposed initiative will take marijuana sales out of the underground market and put them in legitimate, taxpaying businesses,” noted Tim Hinterberger, another sponsor and professor at the University of Alaska-Anchorage. “Replacing marijuana prohibition with a system of taxation and sensible regulation will bolster Alaska’s economy by creating jobs and generating revenue for the state.”

More information about the campaign, including a summary and full text of the initiative, is available at RegulateMarijuanaInAlaska.org.

For a weekly roundup of news and developments in the drug reform movement and the injustices stemming from prohibition, sign up to receive AlterNet's Drugs Newsletter. Make sure to scroll down to "Drugs" and subscribe.

April M. Short is a yoga teacher and writer who previously worked as AlterNet's drugs and health editor. She currently edits part-time for AlterNet, and freelances for a number of publications nationwide.

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