The Alaska House of Representatives
Wednesday defeated a bill
that would have recriminalized marijuana possession. Pushed aggressively
by Gov. Frank Murkowski (R), the bill sought to set up a challenge to previous
Alaska Supreme Court rulings that found the state constitution's privacy
provisions protected the right of Alaskans to possess up to one-quarter
pound in their homes.
In an effort to ensure the
bill's success, Murkowski's legislative allies tied it to a methamphetamine
bill, but instead the combined measure went down in flames on a 21-19 vote.
"This bill was a baldly unconstitutional
effort to override the right of privacy guaranteed to all Alaskans in the
state constitution," said Michael McKey, a legislative analyst with the
Policy Project (MPP) who had worked closely with local groups to defeat
the measure. "The House has wisely refused to be railroaded into
rubber-stamping a bad bill. Now the legislature must take the time
needed to properly examine the scientific and constitutional issues involved."
The bill contained a number
of "findings" that purported to demonstrate that the weed of today is so
much stronger than the stuff of yesteryear as to compel the court to revisit
its landmark 1975 decision in Ravin v. State.
"The governor tried to circumvent
Alaska's constitution by getting the legislature to write scientific falsehoods
into law," McKey said. "Having wisely rejected the effort to rush
this bad bill through by tacking it onto an unrelated methamphetamine bill,
the House should start from square one and take an honest, science-based
look at the marijuana issue. If they do, they will see that it makes
much more sense to set up a responsible system for regulating marijuana
that's consistent with Alaska's constitution and values, rather than attempt
another end-run around Alaskans' constitutional right of privacy."
Alaska remains the only state
where it is legal for any adult to possess up to a quarter-pound of marijuana.
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