Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Judge hears arguments over new state marijuana law


A Superior Court judge heard arguments Wednesday in a constitutional challenge of a new law to recriminalize marijuana possession in the home.

Attorneys for the American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska say the law usurps 30 years of Alaska Supreme Court right-to-privacy decisions and should be struck down.

Chief Assistant Attorney General Dean Guaneli counters that the new law includes findings by the Legislature on the dangers of marijuana that were not considered when the court made its past decision.

Guaneli and the ACLU presented their arguments to Juneau Superior Court Judge Patricia Collins. Both sides are asking for Collins for a summary judgment ruling in their favor. In addition, the ACLU wants Collins to issue an injunction blocking the new law, while the case is being decided and the attorney general's office has asked the judge to dismiss the case. Collins said she expects to issue a written order on those motions by Monday.

The law took effect on June 3. It makes marijuana possession of 4 ounces or more a felony. Possession of 1 to 4 ounces is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail; less than 1 ounce is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days in jail. The new law does not affect medical marijuana patients who are on the state's registry.


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