Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Editorials: Lawmakers target regular Alaskans with anti-marijuana bill

The Northern Lights Online

It's about time someone formed a committee to investigate the un-Alaska activities of our state politicians and hog-tie our governor and Legislature for attempting to make it a felony for a person to possess more than four ounces of marijuana with House Bill 149. Gov. Murkowski has made criminalizing marijuana during his time in office a personal goal.

Obviously, these fat cats don't realize Alaska is the land where Democrats are NRA members and green-thumb Republicans hobby in hydroponics.

We revel in contradiction and our uniqueness. We're the country's largest state, yet we have fewer people than 47 other states. We're home to one of the country's most lenient privacy policies – which should protect us when we're smoking marijuana quietly at home – but the Republicans in charge, whose ideology should have them govern with a less-is-more approach, act like regulation-thirsty Democrats.

Heck, marijuana was legal until 1990 (within our lifetimes!) when voters approved an initiative – later deemed unconstitutional – to criminalize it.

House Bill 149 would criminalize personal-use amounts of marijuana passed in the Alaska State House of Representatives May 8, after the same bill was rejected April 19.

What changed?

The new bill claims that what you're smoking isn't your grandpa's reefer.

This claim is based on findings that were refuted last year by numerous scientific expert testimonies by UAF, Harvard and Oxford researchers, according to the Marijuana Policy Project, a national organization aiming to decriminalize weed.

The Alaska courts have consistently upheld the 1975 Alaska Supreme Court ruling in Ravin v. State, which concluded that Alaskans possessing four or fewer ounces of marijuana are protected from the violation of privacy that enforcement of the proposed marijuana law would entail.

Marijuana criminalization is all about a power trip. Most people realize by now the health risks posed by marijuana pale in comparison to those attending alcohol, which has been perfectly legal since Americans acknowledged the destructive effects of Prohibition. Drives toward ever-more restrictive marijuana laws aren't about marijuana as much as they're about an authoritarian government muscling to push people around.

Marijuana is part of the culture in Alaska. And it's big business, too. In April, six Anchorage men we accused by federal prosecutors of importing more than $10 million of marijuana into Alaska, reported the Anchorage Daily News. Also, in the same month, the newspaper reported Alaska State Troopers found a Bethel man with 42 pounds of the stuff – worth about $940,000. And a Palmer father-son team was arrested for growing 22 marijuana plants in a set up described by police as intricate but not uncommon, according to the Anchorage Daily News. As these recent arrests indicate, weed is an economic powerhouse here, so if we're really a conservative state, we should put political stock in laissez-faire economics.

And another thing. Criminalization of private marijuana use affects us common folk differently from the way it affects the elites who made this decision for us. Privacy, when stolen by the law, can always be bought for a price. Large houses on spacious tracts of land naturally afford a thicker wall of protection between a citizen enjoying a joint in his living room and the prying eyes of neighbors and police. When wealthy people and their kids get caught with illegal drugs, they don't go to jail like the rest of us. They attend pretty rehab programs instead.

Nice for them; crap for some of us.

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