Thursday, April 20, 2006

Alaska House fails to pass marijuana-meth bill


A controversial marijuana bill with efforts to curb the manufacture of methamphetamine was heard in the house yesterday.

Its Governor Murkowski's anti-marijuana legislation and it's created quite a bit of debate throughout our state.

If passed, the bill would overturn a 31-year old state Supreme Court decision that allowed Alaskans to possess a small amount of pot in your home. One group was so passionate about the issue they put out radio ads urging the defeat of the bill.

Alaskans for marijuana regulation and control say the intention was to make Alaskans aware of the bill and to then hopefully get them to contact their house members to oppose the legislation.

They call this legislation unscientific, unnecessary and an assault on Alaskan's right of privacy.

“The amount of time, attention and money we focus on the lightest of all the drugs, marijuana, takes away from the dangerous stuff of methamphetamines and steroids and other drugs that we're trying to control,” said Bill Parker, Alaskans for Marijuana Regulation & Control.

But Mark Morones at the Department of Law sees it differently. He says the bill would make illegal 3 of the drugs that pose a huge threat to Alaska's children.

“It really is a gateway drug. It's very much involved in the harm that's being caused in society today. Almost all the cases you're looking at seem to have a marijuana aspect to it.”

This bill did pass in the Senate Tuesday. But yesterday afternoon, the House rejected it. And since a bill needs to be passed in both houses, it failed this time around. So now a second conference committee will step in to work out the differences between the House and Senate.

In related news, a study just released by the McDowell Group indicates that our state's economy lost 367-million dollars in 2003 due to a loss in productivity from alcohol and drug abuse.

The study looked at lost days of work, inability to function on the job and the higher cost of health care benefits, all of which are affected by alcohol and drug abuse. The Advisory Board on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse says they hope this study draw attention to this issue of substance abuse in Alaska and bring about change.

“When we know exactly how that is impacting our economy, we're very hopeful that will spur more funding more concern and ultimately more services out on the street in prevention, treatment, aftercare,” said Angela Salerno, Advisory Board on Alcoholism & Drug Abuse.


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