Alaskan voters are set to head to the polls this November to decide whether or not the state will establish a recreational cannabis market similar to what has been done in Colorado and Washington. What some people are not aware of is that marijuana has been legal across The Last Frontier for nearly the past four decades.
In the mid-1970s, the Alaskan Supreme Court used the right to privacy clause of the state Constitution’s to deliver a verdict allowing residents to possess and grow small amounts of weed at home, according to a recent article from The Washington Post. This decision, which has been the subject of much controversy throughout the years, has remained largely upheld by the Alaskan judicial system.
“Alaskans can currently lawfully possess up to four ounces of marijuana in their homes for personal use [and cultivate up to 25 plants], but still risk prosecution under existing state and federal statutes,” said University of Alaska law professor Jason Brandeis. What this mean is that residents could still be charged with possession for under four ounces, but the courts would be forced to dismiss the case, he added.
Unfortunately, although Alaska has nearly forty-years of experience in legal marijuana, no one has paid much attention to what this model could mean for the legalization debate because the state is simply too “weird” in comparison to others in the union.
Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in Alaska, which is the initiative currently pushing voters to approve a statewide cannabis commerce, says the current law is “needlessly confusing and inconsistently enforced,” and therefore not an effective enough ruling to benefit the state.
Interestingly, as Washington Post journalist Christopher Ingraham points out, despite having higher rates of marijuana use than anywhere in the nation, Alaska has managed to live inside the realm of legal weed for nearly four decades and “so far the sky hasn’t fallen.” This, he says, conflicts with what legal weed’s opposing forces claim will be the result if the federal government ever decides to repeal prohibition.
“Alaska’s complicated history with marijuana legalization suggests that’s far from the truth,” writes Ingraham.