Marijuana: Alaska House Rejects Recriminalization Bill 4/21/06

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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 Marijuana 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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Issue #432 -- 4/21/06

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