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Reefer Madness
DC, Alaska Go to Pot

Yesterday Alaska became the first red state with a legal pot regime. The ballot initiative legalizing the drug was passed last year, but it is only now starting to take effect. Politico reports on the details of the law:

A ballot initiative passed last November that allows any Alaskan aged 21 or older to possess up to an ounce of marijuana takes effect Tuesday. Residents may now also grow up to six marijuana plants for personal use.

Smoking marijuana in public remains illegal and can result in a $100 fine.

The state has not yet set up laws surrounding the sale of marijuana, but the ballot initiative requires rules to be enacted by Nov. 24. Applications for licenses to sell the drug will not be considered for another year.

Alaska has fairly restrictive alcohol laws—many dry counties, laws against getting drunk in bars—so it’s surprising that it should be the first red state to go to pot. Its type of pot regime also resembles the one currently moving forward in DC. DC’s pro-pot ballot initiative was passed in the fall, and goes live this Thursday. According to The Washington Post, “selling the drug, growing it outdoors, possessing it in federally subsidized housing and smoking it anywhere in public” will still be illegal (police can still arrest you for smoking in public), but two ounces per adult is allowed for private possession, as is home cultivation of up to six seedlings.

However, even this mixed regime for DC is getting significant pushback from national politicians. Congress can review all DC laws directly, and could have the power to stop the legalization. Earlier some Congressional Republicans stated that the law already forbids any kind of marijuana legalization in the District and Utah Senator Jason Chaffetz went so far as to suggest that city officials could be arrested for moving forward with the initiative. The fear of legal action is apparently why officials aren’t going to allow pot sales—according to the Post, even just publicly discussing rules for governing pot sales could have legal repercussions.

According to the latest WaPo update, Republicans appear to be backing off now from that language, with some suggesting that the Justice Department, not Congress, should intervene to stop the pot sales. But expect further drama of this sort as legalization spreads across the country. Legalization hasn’t gone quite as planned in Colorado, and it’s likely that DC, with some intensive federal involvement, will make a muddle of things as well. The nation is in the midst of trying to negotiate a middle ground between a totally laissez-faire drug regime and the regulations that have heretofore existed. Under those circumstances, there’s little chance things won’t get messy.

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  • FriendlyGoat

    1) There is nothing much more ridiculous than a federal government outlawing marijuana nationwide, but demurring to do so in its own District of Columbia. OF COURSE Congress should either legalize weed at the federal level or stop it cold in DC. One or the other.

    2) We can presume in the remoteness of Alaska that those who want to grow weed already grow weed. Why would we be surprised that there were enough voters to say they would prefer the law on their side?

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