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Pot Measure Approved for Vote

This August, Alaskans will have a chance to vote on whether or not to make marijuana legal in our state. According to reporting in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, enough verified signatures were received on a petition to put the measure before the voters this summer.

The vote on the ballot measure comes August 19th, several months before the traditional November elections. Because it’s a primary election ballot and not the main event, turnout may be very small. Whether this will help or hurt marijuana advocacy is disputed. Sometimes, if you can get your supporters out in a low turnout election, numbers can win the day. On the other hand, party loyalists are most likely to vote in a primary election, and this demographic tends to be more politically savvy – conservatives aren’t likely to back legalization, but liberals may.

The actual language which will appear on the ballot – often considered critical to passage – has not yet been published. It awaits approval of the Alaska Division of Elections.

According to reports, there is no organized opposition to the ballot measure, which would add Alaska to the list of two other states (Colorado and Washington) where pot has been legalized outside of a doctor’s care. If passed, our law would mimic theirs: regulation would fall to the Alcoholic Beverage Commission and treated very much like alcohol with age restrictions and possibly “dry” locations.

This election cycle will bring pro-marijuana measures before the public in several states besides Alaska and some form of legalization is expected to pass in many. With every state that contravenes federal law (which makes all marijuana illegal) the pressure on Congress to address the issue grows. Right now, the executive branch – President Obama and the Attorney General Holder in particular – are handling this “state’s rights” hot potato by limiting arrests and prosecutions to large-scale offenders. However, any permanent change in federal policy will have to work its way through Congress.


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