Legal Marijuana: Alaska Goes Green

Alaska is the third U.S. state to legalize marijuana in its entirety: Starting Tuesday, you can smoke, possess and grow it without breaking the law.

The legalization of marijuana is the result of a referendum held in early November. At that time, the residents supported, by a vote of 53 to 47 percent, the initiative of a coalition of libertarians, conservative Republicans (who seek, as usual, to reduce the size of government wherever possible) and smokers, of course.

According to the new rules, every Alaska resident over 21 years old may possess an ounce, or 28.35 grams of marijuana and plant six plants, including three female that contain the psychoactive THC resin and produce seeds. It is still not permissible to smoke in public places. It is also illegal to sell — but not to trade.

Under federal law, to possess, grow, sell, and even offer marijuana is still a crime, but President Obama has turned a blind eye to the states’ experiments. The situation may change after the election in 2016 if a right-wing candidate wins. And a return to the past would be difficult, expensive and painful.

Like Alaska, Colorado and Washington abolished all restrictions on marijuana, except for the administrative ones, and Oregon will do it soon. In 23 states, the green dried cannabis can be bought as a prescription drug. And 14 state legislatures eased regulations on fighting the drug.

From the point of view of local authorities, the benefits are great. Last year, Colorado received over $60 million from taxes on sales and licensing fees, and at the same time, the state saved $145 million, which it would have spent on fighting marijuana when it was illegal. Two-third of the extra income went to build schools.

In addition to financial profit, legalization brings social benefits. In 2012, police arrested 658,000 Americans for possession of marijuana, and only 256,000 for really harmful, “hard” drugs, such as cocaine and heroin. New York was called the “Marijuana Arrest Capital of the World.” Every year, more than 50,000 people would go to prison, and 82 percent of them would be black and Hispanic. Police officers would regularly fabricate accusations of so-called “possession in public,” forcing young people to empty their pockets in public areas.

Why? Well, possession of a bag weighing less than 25 grams was only an offense, but taking it out — a crime. Police officers would increase their arrest quotas, determining the amount of the bonus, and taxpayers would pay nearly $100 million for this fiction — without counting the costs of legal proceedings, prison or forced rehab. Last year, the government of New York said “enough” and allowed the sale of marijuana for medical purposes. And for possession of drugs — explicit or implicit — the only thing you risk is a fine.

Of course, “medical marijuana” is a fiction, too, or — if you will — the hypocrisy that allows for circumvention of the regulations. Theoretically, the weed is used to alleviate nausea during chemotherapy, stimulate appetite, and improve well-being among patients with AIDS, cataracts and diseases that cause involuntary muscle contractions. However, the American Society of Addiction Medicine believes that marijuana should not be classified as a drug. At most, it could be recognized as “an herbal substance with an unspecified action.”

In Alaska, not all were pleased with the new regulations. The indigenous people of the state, like the Indians, have enough problems with the scourge of alcoholism. Marijuana does not destroy the body and is less addictive than alcohol, but — as the leaders of Yu’pik, an Eskimo tribe, say — you do not put another drug under the nose of the person who is susceptible to addictions. In many indigenous villages the sale of alcohol is forbidden, and because the Eskimos have autonomy when it comes to lawmaking, it will be the same with marijuana.

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