Recreational Marijuana Ballot Goes Into Effect in Alaska
During the midterm elections in November 2014, 53% of Alaskan voters said yes to legalizing recreational marijuana in the state. As of February 24th, 2015, the ballot measure is in effect and adults aged 21 and older can consume and grow the drug legally.
“Most adults use marijuana for the same reasons most adults use alcohol,” said Mason Tvert, communications director for drug policy reform group Marijuana Policy Project. “We want them to keep in mind that it carries the same responsibilities.”
Alaska is the third state in the US to legalize recreational marijuana use, following the examples of Washington State and Colorado. The midterm elections also saw recreational marijuana bills pass in Oregon and Washington, DC, but so far these bills have not been enacted, as lawmakers try to finalize tricky legal details of recreational versus medical marijuana, as well as balancing the interstate ramifications against the federal government.
In all states that have passed recreational marijuana use so far, public consumption is illegal. Alaskan police are issuing fines of $100 to anyone caught smoking or consuming recreational marijuana in public. However, although Alaska’s bill bans “smoking” marijuana in public, the wording is vague and lawmakers have allowed the final decision for the state’s alcohol regulatory board. Many places will likely allow smoking outdoors on private property, as long as the smoke is not a nuisance to neighbors or businesses.
Adults age 21 and older may possess up to one ounce of marijuana at any time – in Washington, DC, adults may possess two ounces. If the consumer grows his or her own marijuana, however, in Colorado, Oregon, and Alaska, the consumer may possess all of the marijuana grown in their personal garden, but they may not sell it without a state license. In Washington state, it is illegal to grow your own marijuana, and you may only purchase recreational marijuana through state dispensaries.
Alaska’s bill, along with Oregon and Colorado, allows for adults of legal consuming age to share up to an ounce of marijuana with each other. However, selling is illegal without very specific state permits, and in some states, such as Colorado and Washington, recreational consumption of marijuana is under much more strict regulation than medical marijuana, which has led to legal conflicts with marijuana selling establishments.
Alaska does not yet have specific recreational marijuana selling businesses, and expects to finalize that legislation in 2016.
While many proponents of recreational marijuana support not just the end of marijuana prohibition, but an end to criminal penalties that land otherwise good citizens in jail, Alaskan Natives are concerned that the introduction of a new drug into the legal market can lead to addiction problems among tribal members, who already suffer high rates of alcohol abuse and domestic violence.
“When they start depending on smoking marijuana, I don’t know how far they’d go to get the funds they need to support it, to support themselves,” said Edward Nick, council member in Manokotak, a remote village of 400 that is predominantly Yup’ik Eskimo.
As more states pass medical and recreational marijuana legislation, states without such bills are more likely to begin penalizing residents, who may take a vacation to Colorado, for example, and return home with marijuana metabolites in their bloodstream. In South Carolina, recreational use of marijuana is completely illegal, and finding marijuana metabolites, which can remain in the blood for up to a month, is reason enough to charge or convict the user with DUI for drugs or terminate an employee for a positive drug screen, even if the marijuana was used in a state where it was legal.
If You Face Marijuana Charges, The Strom Law Firm Can Help
If you or a loved one have been found with marijuana and charged with marijuana possession, or found with marijuana metabolites in your system, you could face criminal charges ranging from misdemeanor to felony. The South Carolina drug crimes attorneys at the Strom Law Firm can help. Do not let drug charges for marijuana use hurt your reputation or your future aspirations. We offer free, confidential consultations to discuss the facts of your case. Contact us today for help. 803.252.4800