Marijuana: Governor to Try Again to End Legal Marijuana in Alaska 12/16/05

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http://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/415/murkowski.shtml

Republican Governor Frank Murkowski plans to try to do away with legal marijuana in Alaska again this year, after seeing last year's effort die in the state legislature. Alaska Department of Law spokesman Mark Morones told the Juneau Empire the administration would "hit the ground running" to push its pot re-criminalization bill when the legislature reconvenes next year.

In a landmark 1975 decision, Ravin v. Alaska, the state Supreme Court found that the state constitution's right to privacy protected Alaskans who used marijuana in the privacy of their own homes. Although legal pot in Alaska was overturned by a voter initiative in 1991, it was reaffirmed by the state Supreme Court in 2004, which found the ban unconstitutional and Ravin still in effect.

Under current state law, Alaskans can possess up to four ounces of marijuana and grow their own for personal use. The bill pushed by Gov. Murkowski, SB 74, would make possession of more than an ounce a felony and would increase penalties for other marijuana offenses. Possession of less than one ounce would be a misdemeanor.

The bill excited stiff opposition last year from the Marijuana Policy Project and its local affiliate, Alaskans for Marijuana Regulation and Control, and won little enthusiasm in the legislature. Still, it remains alive in the state's two-year legislative session, which recommences January 9. It awaits action in the Senate Finance Committee before heading to the Senate floor. It has not been acted on in the House.

The state's law enforcement establishment has been up in arms in part because another Alaska Supreme Court ruling held that since possession of up to four ounces is legal, police must show probable cause a home contains more than four ounces in order to obtain a warrant to raid suspected grow ops. Alaska Assistant Attorney General Dean Guaneli was hitting that theme again with the Times. "The police are not getting effective search warrants for marijuana growing operations," Guaneli said.

Michael Macleod-Ball, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska, told the paper the bill was not aimed at commercial growers but at small-time users and growers. "Criminalizing those with small amounts of marijuana does not solve the problem," he said. "All it does is give the police the ability to go into someone's home if they believe they have marijuana," he said.

Look for this battle to heat up shortly.

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Issue #415 -- 12/16/05

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Appeal: David Borden Makes a Case to Support DRCNet for 2006 | Feature: DEA, Local Police Join Forces to Raid 13 San Diego Medical Marijuana Dispensaries | Feature: Jurors Acquit California Narc Who Killed Rudy Cardenas in Mistaken Chase | Feature: Coca Leader Evo Morales Poised to Win Bolivia Presidential Vote Sunday | DRCNet Book Review: "Bud, Inc.: Inside Canada's Marijuana Industry," by Ian Mulgrew (2005, Random House Canada, 287 pp., approx. $US 29.00, HB) | Alert: Protest DEA's December Outrage | Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories | Sentencing: Report on 2004 New York Drug Law Reform Finds Less than Meets the Eye, Much More to Do | Industrial Hemp: South Dakota Indians Go to Federal Court in Effort to Grow Crop | Medical Marijuana: Sheriff Can't Revoke Pistol Permit Just Because of Medical Use, Oregon Court Rules | Marijuana: Governor to Try Again to End Legal Marijuana in Alaska | Medical Marijuana: Bills Active in Several States | Latin America: GAO Report Challenges US Statistics on Cocaine Seizures | Web Scan: Seattle Times, Village Voice, San Diego Raids and LEAP in Princeton | Weekly: This Week in History | Job Openings: Listings at the Marijuana Policy Project | Weekly: The Reformer's Calendar

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