Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Push on to pass marijuana bill


According to the Associated Press, one day into a new legislative session, the push is on to toughen Alaska's marijuana laws. The Senate Finance Committee Tuesday heard amendments to Governor Frank Murkowski's bill that would re-criminalize personal use of the drug. Dubbed a "must-pass" bill last session, Murkowski is asking state lawmakers to consider evidence of marijuana's dangers that should trump the courts' right to privacy rulings.

Committee co-chairwoman Lyda Green (a Wasilla Republican) says she expects the bill to move out of committee on Thursday for later floor debate and a vote. Alaska laws regarding marijuana use are among the loosest in the country. A 1975 Supreme Court decision made it legal for Alaskans to possess small quantities of marijuana for personal use in their homes.

Senate Bill 74 would stiffen penalties for marijuana use and possession. It would make possession of four ounces of pot or more a felony. Chief Assistant Attorney General Dean Guaneli testified that marijuana is more potent, and therefore more dangerous, than in the 1970's.

Opponents say criminalizing the drug will not solve the problems of drug abuse.


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