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Historic Day For Marijuana In Alaska

Photo via Aliwak- Shutterstock.com

 
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by Phillip Smith

on February 24, 2015

This article originally appeared on Alternet.

As of today, February 24th, 2015, the first phase of Alaska’s voter-approved Measure 2 marijuana legalization goes into effect. Beginning now, people 21 and over can legally possess up to an ounce of weed and grow up to six plants in their home (only three flowering). Adults may also share up to an ounce of weed with other adults and give them up to six plants.

Private pot-smoking is completely legal for adults, although public consumption remains illegal. Not all issues related to personal use, possession, and cultivation are resolved. The state legislature is still trying to settle questions around edibles, transporting marijuana, and use by minors. Senate Bill 30, which was supposed to be ready by legalization day, is still working its way through the legislature

The second phase of legalization — legal, taxed, and regulated marijuana commerce — won’t go into effect until the spring or summer of 2016. A nine-month rulemaking process is set to begin on legalization day, with the state expected to begin accepting applications for business permits in February 2016. The timeline was mandated in Measure 2, and the process is on schedule so far.

“First Colorado and Washington, now Alaska and Oregon — and all with levels of support higher than the winning candidates for governor and U.S. Senate achieved in those states,” said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance.  “Legalizing marijuana just makes sense now to voters across the political spectrum and — as we’ll likely see in 2016 — across the country.”

Dr. Tim Hunterberger, cosponsor of the initiative and chair of the winning Campaign to Regulate Like Alcohol in Alaska, and Bruce Schulte of the Coalition for Responsible Cannabis Legislation, an industry group monitoring the implementation process, are calling for legalization supporters to celebrate by consuming marijuana responsibly and to keep in mind that personal legalization doesn’t mean a marijuana free-for-all.  

“As with alcohol, there’s an appropriate time, place, and manner to consume marijuana, and the worst thing that could happen right now is for a handful of overzealous folks to spoil things by making a public spectacle out of marijuana consumption,” they cautioned. “So, please be respectful of your fellow Alaskans, don’t drive under the influence and don’t do anything to give your neighbors reason to feel uneasy about this new law. We’re in the midst of an enormous social and legal shift. Please do your part to make it as successful as possible by consuming responsibly.”

Alaska isn’t the only place where legalization is going at least partially into effect this week. The District of Columbia’s pot possession and cultivation legalization initiative is set to go into effect Thursday — unless Congress miraculously acts to block it (and the president signs such a measure) before then. 

Phillip Smith is editor of the AlterNet Drug Reporter and author of the Drug War Chronicle.