Could Alaska be the next state to legalize and regulate small amounts of cannabis for personal use?
Supporters in Juneau think so.
The process has begun to gather signatures for a ballot measure that would legalize up to an ounce of marijuana for personal use, allow for home cultivation and set up a state-regulated cannabis industry -- all things pioneered in Colorado.
In fact, the plan is nearly identical to Colorado's Amendment 64 in many ways, including language that allows adults to give cannabis away "without remuneration" and cultivate up to three flowering plants and three non-flowering plants at any time -- with the ability to keep the entire harvest.
Bill Parker, a former Alaska state representative and deputy commissioner of corrections turned marijuana advocate, says the proposal has been tailored to be much more "palatable" than previous legalization attempts. In 2004, a failed ballot initiative would have allowed adults over 21 to not only use and cultivate marijuana at home, but sell their harvest. The 2004 proposal would also have given amnesty to people previously convicted of marijuana crimes, according to the Marijuana Policy Project.
The new proposal still allows for cannabis sales, but only through state-regulated stores -- much like the system Colorado legislators are currently creating.
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Until relatively recently, Alaska had some of the country's most tolerant marijuana laws. Starting in the 1970s, possession of four ounces or less and cultivating up to 25 plants in your home for personal use weren't a crime. Since 2006, though, possession of up to an ounce in public has been considered a misdemeanor that can net you up to ninety days in jail and a $2,000 fine. And cultivation outside of the home is a felony that carries penalties of up to five years in jail and $1,000 in fines.
Supporters will have until January to gather 30,169 signatures from thirty of the forty districts in the state -- the requirement for getting an initiative on a primary ballot. The proposal would then go to the legislature before going to voters in November 2014.