Alaskans will have plenty to vote for next year, with a highly-contested U.S. Senate race, the repeal of new oil taxes, and the possibility of legalizing marijuana.
There are currently around 16,000 signatures in support of legalizing marijuana for recreational use. To get the voter initiative on the ballot, sponsors are aiming for 45,000 in total. If they want the issue on the 2014 ballot, they need to reach their target by December 31 of this year.
Sponsors say the initiative would make it legal for adults 21 years of age and older to possess up to one ounce of marijuana and up to six plants. It would also create “marijuana retail stores, marijuana cultivation facilities, marijuana infused-product manufacturers, and marijuana testing facilities, all of which would operate pursuant to strict regulatory guidelines issued by the state.”
While Congressman Don Young has protected Alaska’s opportunity to legalize the drug, Governor Parnell says he won’t take a stand. Neither will local law enforcement officers or the State Troopers.
According to the 2012 Alaska State Trooper’s Drug Report, marijuana is one of the top drugs of choice in Alaska, and is “viewed as a gateway to other drugs for young adults and teenagers.”
The 2011 Alaska Youth Risk Behavior Survey conducted by State of Alaska Department of Health and Social Services indicates that 21.2% of high school students used marijuana within the last 30 days.
There were 817 marijuana-related arrests in 2012, significantly down from the 1,211 in 2011 and 1,040 in 2010.
On the Kenai Peninsula alone, there were 231 marijuana-related charges last year. That’s more than double the 99 charges for all other drugs on the Peninsula.