Thanks to the state constitution and the state Supreme Court that interpreted it, Alaska is the only state in the nation where marijuana possession in the privacy of one's home is not a crime. Republican Governor Frank Murkowski and the state's law enforcement establishment hate this state of affairs and are moving again this year to recriminalize marijuana possession, despite being slapped down in the legislature last year and the courts the year before.
Murkowski's vehicle for recriminalization is Senate Bill 74, which not only makes marijuana possession even at home a crime again, but also increases penalties for use and possession. Possession of more than four ounces of marijuana -- the amount currently allowed at home -- would become a felony, while possession of less than four ounces would be a misdemeanor.
The Senate Finance Committee heard amendments to the bill Tuesday in an unannounced hearing, and committee co-chair Lyda Green (R-Wasill) told the Associated Press she expected the bill to pass out of committee Thursday. Once that happens, it will go to a floor debate and a Senate vote. Green also said she would not delay action in order to hear expert testimony. Such testimony helped derail the bill last year.
Murkowski and his allies are using the "not your father's marijuana" argument to suggest that today's marijuana is so much more dangerous than the weed of yesteryear that its dangerousness would override the state constitution's privacy provisions that have so far sheltered home use and possession. They also argue that another Alaska state court decision requiring police to provide evidence that someone is growing more than enough marijuana for four ounces in order to get a search warrant for a grow is hampering law enforcement.
"This is going to allow the troopers to turn back the clock to where we were a couple of years ago, to allow them to get search warrants, to stop the commercial marijuana growing."
Coincidentally, Gov. Murkowski this week complained that Alaska was the subject of ridicule because of national controversy over drilling in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge (he's for it) and the $50 million "bridges to nowhere" linking thinly-populated islands to the mainland (he's for them, too). He has proposed a two-year public relations effort to improve the state's image. But with support for marijuana legalization continuing to climb, sneaking bills through the legislature or wildly exaggerating modern marijuana's dangers might be tactics that could backfire.