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Registered: 07/26/04
Posts: 13,985
Alaskans vote to decriminalize marijuana
    #3277822 - 10/26/04 02:31 AM (12 years, 4 days ago)

Marijuana advocates push groundbreaking ballot measure in Alaska

Associated Press
Oct. 25, 2004 06:12 PM

ANCHORAGE, Alaska - Tim Hinterberger teaches neural anatomy to future doctors and physiology to future nurses at the University of Alaska Anchorage.

On the side, he hopes to foment change in America's marijuana policy.

Hinterberger, 48, is a sponsor of Ballot Measure 2, which would make Alaska the first state to completely decriminalize marijuana.

America's laws on marijuana are unjust, expensive and unsuccessful, he contends.

"Why would you prohibit marijuana in a society where you allow the consumption of things such as alcohol and tobacco?" he asked.

The government commissions studies, assembles panels of experts and ignores their conclusions, he said. The studies conclude that the harm caused by prohibiting marijuana outweighs the harmful effects of the drug, Hinterberger contends.

The measure would allow people 21 and older to use, grow, sell or give away pot. The measure proposes trading prohibition for state regulation, much as the state regulates alcohol - banning marijuana use by minors, perhaps capping the amount an individual can grow, jailing people who drive impaired - and taxing its sales.

It's a logical alternative to expensive, unsuccessful enforcement of current marijuana laws, Hinterberger said.

His argument has not swayed Wev Shea, a former U.S. attorney for Alaska and a veteran of the state's drug policy battles.

"We don't need another harmful hallucinogenic drug legalized," Shea said.

Shea contends that many Alaskans, including children, would experiment with marijuana and take on its risks if it were not illegal.

"It's something that should never be socially acceptable by any society that cares about the children," he said.

Alaskans have a long history with marijuana. In 1975, a state Supreme Court decision made it legal to possess small quantities in the privacy of a home.

In 1990, voters chose to make possession a crime, a law that stayed in place until last year when the state Court of Appeals ruled that Alaskans had the right to possess up to four ounces of pot in their homes for personal use.

Marijuana advocates in 1998 used the initiative process to win passage of a medical marijuana law.

Advocates of the current ballot measure had to sue Lt. Gov. Loren Leman to accept required signatures on their petitions. They sued him again this month after it was revealed that his chief of staff had written the opposition statement in the state's Official Election Pamphlet.

Matthew Fagnani, chairman of Alaskans Against the Legalization of Marijuana and Hemp, calls the measure a "smoke and mirrors" initiative. Sponsors have not said how Alaska could regulate marijuana potency or a distribution system. He doubts the state could and suggests it should be regulated at the federal level.

The measure gives people a false sense of security, he said.

Fagnani is president of WorkSafe Inc., a company that administers drug tests. Passing the ballot measure would be good for his business but harmful to most others, he said.

"This initiative wreaks havoc on Alaska employers' liability if it passes," he said. It would force employers to come up with programs and policies for employees who show up impaired, he said.

How is that different from an employee showing up drunk?

"The difference is that currently the employer has policy and rules about that and we have levels that declare impairment," Fagnani said. "How are you going to do that with marijuana?"

Hinterberger said marijuana is irrationally stigmatized.

"Nobody feels ashamed to say they have a glass of beer when they get home," he said, and few people can now fathom the country's experiment with alcohol prohibition last century.

"Prohibitions just don't fit in a free society," he said. "Maybe in a police state, but not in a free democratic society."

An economic analysis paid for by Alaskans for Rights and Revenues, one of the groups pushing the ballot measure, concluded that prohibiting pot costs Alaska more than $28 million annually for law enforcement, court time and jail expenses. A disproportionate number of minority Alaskans are prosecuted, according to the study by Boreal Economic Analysis & Research of Fairbanks.

The study concludes that prohibition does not significantly curb consumption, and when it does, there's often a substitution of other substances.

Marijuana critics point to large numbers of Alaska high school students who have experimented with marijuana. The 2003 Youth Risk Behavior Survey indicated 23.9 percent of Alaska high school students said they had used marijuana in the previous 30 days, down from 28.7 percent in 1995. The same survey showed use of pot before age 13 rose from 11.8 percent in 1985 to 13.1 percent in 2003.

Supporters quote the same numbers to argue that fewer children would try marijuana with state oversight.

"Legal sellers of alcohol go to a lot of trouble to avoid selling to kids," Hinterberger said.

"If I were a parent, I would much rather have my kid trying to get it illegally from the 7-Eleven than driving all over town in the middle of the night trying to get it from some guy who has a box under his sofa that probably has some crack in it, and maybe he's got an Uzi under the sofa too," Hinterberger said.

Hinterberger and other proponents are especially critical of Alaska's administration of the medical marijuana law, approved by voters in 1998.

Alaskans with debilitating conditions can obtain registration cards and, in theory, possess marijuana to help them. But there is no provision for acquiring marijuana.

"It's a felony for anyone to transfer cannabis for medical purposes," said Peter Gordon of Fairbanks, who holds a registry card.

The medical marijuana system clearly is not working - fewer than 300 people are on the registry, he said.

"There are clearly more than 300 patients in Alaska who would choose to benefit from the use of cannabis," he said.

Gordon, 36, was climbing bookshelves in his grandmother's garage 10 years ago when he fell about 6 feet and severely damaged two vertebrae at the base of his spine.

He finds it all but impossible to sit and he cannot lie down without extreme pain. Despite two surgeries and prescription drugs, he spends most of his waking hours standing up.

Mindful of the law, he chose his words carefully.

"I cannot confirm or deny that I use cannabis," Gordon said. "I can say that cannabis does give relief. ... It allows a person to ignore his pain."

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Re: Alaskans vote to decriminalize marijuana [Re: veggie]
    #3279957 - 10/26/04 04:43 PM (12 years, 3 days ago)


"Why would you prohibit marijuana in a society where you allow the consumption of things such as alcohol and tobacco?" he asked.


"...Gal's seem to hate the thought of blending chicken shit in a blender.
So, wash it well afterwards & DON'T tell them..."  -Agar

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