In a stunning upset, MPP’s coalition in Alaska has won a major victory against efforts to re-criminalize marijuana in Alaska. On Wednesday, against all odds, the Alaska House of Representatives voted 21-19 to reject Gov. Frank Murkowski’s (R) bill to wipe out Alaska’s good marijuana law ? the best state marijuana law in the nation.
Currently, Alaska is the only state where any aspect of recreational marijuana use is legal, but Murkowski’s legislation would re-criminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana in the home and send Alaska back to the Dark Ages. His outrageous bill would make the penalty for possession of small amounts of marijuana the same as for incest, burglary, or possessing child pornography ? up to five years in prison.
The Alaska House of Representatives dealt Gov. Frank Murkowski (R) a sharp setback today, refusing to concur with the combined marijuana-methamphetamine bill containing the governor?s language re-criminalizing marijuana possession. Officials of the Washington, D.C.-based Marijuana Policy Project, which has been working closely with Alaska opponents of the measure, hailed the vote as an opportunity to reexamine the issue based on science and respect for Alaska?s constitution.
?This bill was a baldly unconstitutional effort to override the right of privacy guaranteed to all Alaskans in the state constitution,? said MPP Legislative Analyst Michael McKey. ?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 attempted to circumvent court rulings establishing that Alaskans? constitutional right of privacy protects the right to possess up to four ounces of marijuana in one?s home. It included a series of ?findings? that essentially claimed that today?s marijuana is a fundamentally different drug than that of the 1970s, so the 1975 Alaska Supreme Court ruling in Ravin v. State no longer applies.
But scientific experts from the University of Alaska Fairbanks and other prestigious institutions blasted the findings as unscientific and misleading in written and oral testimony last year. ?Marijuana is no more harmful today than it was in 1975,? testified Dr. Lester Grinspoon, Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard University.
?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.?