Alaska Marijuana Legalization Raises Questions


On Nov. 4, Alaskans voted to legalize the recreational use of marijuana, but that decision seems to have raised more questions than ever about how the new law will be implemented. One of the biggest issues facing Alaskans is how to transport marijuana within the state.

Despite the legalization of small amounts of marijuana, federal laws still prohibit cannabis, and many rural communities in Alaska can only be accessed by plane or boat—a fact that could complicate the new state law. While Alaska’s ground is her own, her skies and many of her waterways fall under the jurisdiction of federal regulation. The possession and transportation of marijuana are still illegal under federal law.

According to Alaska Dispatch News, the laws governing the use of cannabis in the state have not yet been drafted and are not expected to be until Proposition 2 takes effect in February, after which time the state will be given nine months to decide how and what to enforce. A spokesman for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) said that when illegal substances are found during security screening, local law enforcement is informed and decides how to proceed.

Anchorage’s Ted Stevens International Airport manager, John Parrott, says that many small regional airports have security police on site instead of TSA to help stop alcohol from being transported to dry communities. There is nothing stopping the airport police from doing the same with marijuana, says Parrott.

Another question raised by Proposition 2 is whether marijuana will be made legal on the many ferries which help to connect the various communities of Alaska. According to Jeremy Woodrow at the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, the legality is uncertain, but his department will be working with the Department of Law to determine what changes, if any, should be made over the next year. The U.S. Coast Guard said it will continue to uphold federal law and enforce strict marijuana prohibition.

Furthermore, the Coast Guard means to ensure that boaters are sober while operating any vessel on open water, says Kip Wadlow, Coast Guard Spokesman. Wadlow said that whether the contraband will be confiscated or the perpetrator will be arrested depends on the situation, but as long as federal law prohibits marijuana, the Coast Guard will enforce that law.

The decision to legalize marijuana in Alaska was by no means a landslide defeat for Proposition 2’s opposition. The measure passed with 52 percent of voters in favor, less than either Oregon or Washington D.C., which passed similar propositions. The measure passed with 69 percent of the vote in the capital and 55 percent in Oregon. The decision in the District of Columbia, however, is subject to different rules and may face a push from Congress to overrule that decision.

Washington and Colorado passed measures to legalize on previous ballots in 2012. According to The New York Times, Colorado has reported mixed results since the law went into effect in January. The state’s crime rates do appear to be dropping, but revenue from the taxation of marijuana has been lower than expected, as many continue to purchase medical marijuana, which is subject to fewer taxes than its recreational cousin. Before Alaskans can cheer and raise a marijuana cupcake, the election must be certified. Ninety days later the initiative can become a law, and then the many looming questions of legality may be answered.

By Sree Aatmaa Khalsa

Photo by History Center – Flickr License

The New York Times
Alaska Dispatch News
Alaska Dispatch News
Marijuana Policy Project

3 Responses to "Alaska Marijuana Legalization Raises Questions"

  1. malcolmkyle   November 17, 2014 at 4:32 am

    Please stop with these reefer madness articles; the people have spoken, prohibition is a failed and dangerous policy!

    When fascism came to the USA it was not labelled “Made in Germany”, it was not marked with a swastika, it was not even called fascism. It actually had many names, like Kleiman, Sabet, Sembler, Chabott, Volkov, Leonhart, ….

  2. Brian Kelly   November 16, 2014 at 9:36 pm

    Fear of Marijuana Legalization Nationwide is unfounded. Not based on any science or fact whatsoever. So please all you prohibitionists, we beg you to give your scare tactics, “Conspiracy Theories” and “Doomsday Scenarios” over the inevitable Legalization of Marijuana a rest. Nobody is buying them anymore these days. Okay?

    Furthermore, if all you prohibitionists get when you look into that nice, big and shiny, crystal ball of yours, while wondering about the future of marijuana legalization, is horror, doom, and despair, well then I suggest you return that thing as quickly as possible and reclaim the money you shelled out for it, since it is obviously defective.

    The prohibition of marijuana has not decreased the supply nor the demand for marijuana at all. Not one single iota, and it never will. Just a huge and complete waste of our tax dollars to continue criminalizing citizens for choosing a natural, non-toxic, relatively benign plant proven to be much safer than alcohol.

    If prohibitionists are going to take it upon themselves to worry about “saving us all” from ourselves, then they need to start with the drug that causes more death and destruction than every other drug in the world COMBINED, which is alcohol!

    Why do prohibitionists feel the continued need to vilify and demonize marijuana when they could more wisely focus their efforts on a real, proven killer, alcohol, which again causes more destruction, violence, and death than all other drugs, COMBINED?

    Prohibitionists really should get their priorities straight and or practice a little live and let live. They’ll live longer, happier, and healthier, with a lot less stress if they refrain from being bent on trying to control others through Draconian Marijuana Laws.

  3. Robert Chase   November 16, 2014 at 8:05 pm

    Your claim that Alaska doesn’t have jurisdiction over its own airspace is nonsense; “One of the biggest issues facing Alaskans is how to transport marijuana within the state” — absolutely ridiculous! It is no revelation that any use of cannabis is illegal under Federal law and this is not a problem peculiar to Alaska. As for airport police routinely intercepting and confiscating alcohol, I hope that that is a problem confined to Alaska — there can be no justification for exacerbating this petty tyranny by extending it to stealing citizens’ cannabis too. Alaskans should rid themselves of the prohibitionists infesting their government and media.

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