Will Alaska be the Next State to Legalize Marijuana Possession? Implications for Other States

With Colorado working through all of the complications of legalized marijuana and Washington State up next with legal pot stores pending, some media reports suggests that Alaska may be the next frontier for reforming laws concerning marijuana possession.

According to Fox News, a local activist group has gathered 45,000 signatures for a ballot initiative to legalize marijuana in America's northern most state. For the initiative to get on the primary, 30,000 signatures have to be verified. The signatures must come from at least 30 House districts in Alaska.

Alaska has a somewhat murky relationship with cannabis. In 1982 the Alaska legislature passed legislation that decriminalized possession of amounts of less than four ounces, unless there was evidence of selling or distribution. The amount limit was later reduced to one ounce. In 2006 the Alaska legislature passed a law that recriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana. The law was challenged in court by the ACLU. The law was thrown out by the Alaska Superior Court. But the lower court ruling was thrown out by the Alaska Supreme Court. The result is that there is still a conflict between the 2006 law and the 1982 law.

Supporters of the ballot initiative claim that it will bring Alaska back into compliance with the former law. Under the initiative, people 21 years or older will be allowed to have up to one ounce of marijuana and up to six plants, three of which are flowering. Smoking in public will be prohibited and will garner an up to $100 fine. There will be provisions for the legal cultivation and sale of marijuana and marijuana infused products. The government would levy a $50 an ounce tax on marijuana on sales from a cultivation facility to a retail outlet.

The move to legalize pot in Alaska is not without opposition. According to the Alaska Dispatch, a national group called Smart Approaches to Marijuana is gearing up to fight the ballot initiative, citing health and public safety concerns.

The takeaway from this development is that with Colorado and Washington State having legalized recreational marijuana, the movement to make pot legal has spread to other states. Thus far the federal government has declined to enforce federal marijuana laws in states where it is legal. However that policy may be reversed with a change of administrations.

California Laws

California's Health & Safety Code 11357 makes it an infraction to possess an ounce or less of marijuana without a doctor's recommendation. The infraction carries a fine of $100 plus additional court related fees. However, the sale of any amount of marijuana remain a felony and carries a punishment of up to 3 years of incarceration and a fine of up to $10,000.

Contact a Criminal Law Attorney

If you have been arrested for the sale of marijuana in the Riverside County cities of Temecula, Murrieta, Hemet, Menifee, Wildomar, Perris, Banning, Riverside, Corona or Lake Elsinore, contact us for a free consultation. Since 1999, we have successfully represented several hundred individuals who faced criminal charges. We are a local law firm and our office is located near the Southwest Justice Center in Murrieta, CA. We can help!

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