Marijuana Policy Project Targets Alaska As Next State To Decriminalize Marijuana

Discussion in 'Legalization/Decriminalization' started by Monterey Bud, Jan 19, 2013.

  1. Monterey Bud Monterey Bud

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    • Since: Nov 16, 2011
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    Eric Christopher Adams
    Decriminalize marijuana, one of Alaska's cash crops


    The year 2012 marked the 40th anniversary of findings by the federal government's National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse that, contrary to the Reefer Madness campaign of the 1930s, pot was not making folks go crazy. The commission's 1972 report to Congress recommended that the personal use of marijuana should be decriminalized and that Americans should be able to cultivate and share cannabis in small amounts.

    In the next decade, several states, including Alaska, legalized small amounts of cannabis possession. After that, states including Alaska began to legalize marijuana for medicinal use. Twenty years later, states have begun to decriminalize marijuana. Washington and Colorado voters made history on Nov. 6, 2012, choosing to regulate pot -- to tax it and raise revenue from its cultivation and use – while rejecting antiquated notions that condemn pot as some gateway to immoral behavior.

    Pot could be a cash crop for Alaska, too, if the Legislature would take action. Lawmakers could raise revenue for the state at a time when the budget is bleeding and lawmakers are dithering over how much money to give oil companies to encourage further exploration.

    Alaskans will soon be given the opportunity to pass a ballot measure that decriminalizes marijuana in the Great Land. Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project, recently announced that his group planned to target Alaska as the next state that should decriminalize marijuana. Within three years, he hopes to do that at the federal level.

    The initiative, according to this article, will likely appear on the 2014 primary election ballot. The Marijuana Policy Project takes pot reform seriously: it’s the group behind Colorado's successful initiative and they see pot as a solution to the social ills of alcoholism.

    “We spent eight years educating Colorado about marijuana,” said Steve Fox, the project's director of government relations and a key organizer in the Colorado ballot initiative. “Voters concluded marijuana was less harmful than alcohol, for example. Marijuana is safer. It makes no sense to steer people toward a substance that makes people violent.”

    That’s an argument that could catch on in Alaska, where domestic violence and assault rates are among the highest in the country.

    Fox made it clear that his group had no interest in just swooping into Alaska and pushing for legislation to liberalize drug laws. The Marijuana Policy Project would work with local organizers to build a grassroots campaign to pass a ballot measure to tax and regulate cannabis just like cigarettes or alcohol, he said.

    Imagine the revenue potential: Alaskans are notorious in their love of growing and selling pot. More than 26,000 pounds of marijuana was farmed in the A-K last year, with a street value of more than $205 million, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency. Taxing and regulating that much product -- possibly more if exports are permitted -- could bring revenue at a time when Alaska needs roads, public safety and new schools as oil revenues are dropping.

    Fox said his group would focus on educating voters, not lawmakers, who have had decades to write meaningful marijuana reform laws but have chosen instead to criminalize pot smokers, a process that ultimately costs the state hundreds of millions of dollars in prosecutions and prisons.

    But the group's Alaska campaign is still in its "exploration stages," Fox said. And that gives lawmakers a window of opportunity. As the 28th Legislature gets under way, representatives and senators new to Juneau can go bold, and offer a solution to the revenue shortfall -- one that doesn't touch the Alaska Permanent Fund or create an income tax -- without giving away too much in the form of tax cuts for oil production.

    Don't bet your bag that pot will land among this two-year Legislature's priorities, unless a vocal majority assembles to demand it. With one law, the Alaska Legislature can give the state a new resource to export, generate new income for dwindling state coffers and do something to stem the swelling prison population.

    The Marijuana Policy Project does ask voters who support decriminalizing marijuana to lobby their lawmakers. More information is available at the group's website. Other states along with Alaska that are a part of the 2016 strategy include Rhode Island, Maine, Oregon, California, Massachusetts and Nevada.

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