On Tuesday, Alaska lawmakers legalized marijuana smoking, growing and possession following a November voters’ initiative designed to settle more than four decades of conflicting rulings and regulations within the state.
The initiative was conducted by some Republicans, libertarians and pot smoking supporters from all corers of the state. The voters decided with a 53-47 vote that the private use of marijuana should be legalized in America’s wildest state. However, Alaska lawmakers had to issue the proper regulations for this to happen.
But Native leaders from Alaska are concerned that the new regulations may boost criminality within their communities, as well as encourage other substance abuse in a state that is already challenged by high rates of alcohol abuse, suicide, and domestic violence.
“When they start depending on smoking marijuana, I don’t know how far they’d go to get the funds they need to support it, to support themselves,”
explained Edward Nick, a community leader in Manokotak, a small village of 400 Yup’ik Eskimos.
However, the Alaska regulators allowed small communities, including villages such as Manokotak, to regulate the alcohol and drug use even inside the privacy of somebody’s home. But Native leaders such as Mr. Nick fear that the new law and a 1975 Alaska Supreme Court ruling that had legalized pot smoking inside homes could boost drug abuse within their communities.
Initiative supporters reassured those leaders that they will still be able to have a limited local control of the issue just like they have control on alcohol use within their communities’ boundaries. Across Alaska, 108 local communities limit alcohol use, while 33 of them totally ban it.
However, really small community leaders such as tribal councils will not be able to legally limit marijuana use within their communities.
The new initiative bans marijuana smoking in public, but it didn’t provide any details on what “public” may mean. For instance, are people allowed to smoke on their own porch? In Anchorage, Alaska most populous city which hosts more than 40 percent of state’s population, Police Chief Mark Mew announced that its officers will fine anyone who trespasses the public smoking ban, including people smoking pot on their porches located next to a public park.
Marijuana cultivation is still under discussion on the Kenai Peninsula, but within the North Pole communities smoking marijuana on an outdoor private property is legal unless it doesn’t trouble the public.
Since Tuesday, any adult can keep and smoke pot, as well as cultivate it and giving it away. In 2016, Alsaka lawmakers plan to tax the marijuana market and put it under tighter regulations.
Image Source: Travel Vivi