Alaska Notebook: It's hard to get excited about marijuana initiative

January 11, 2014 

Reefer rerun

I just can't get excited about the ballot initiative to legalize marijuana.

It's not that the issue doesn't matter. If for no other reason, Alaska should resolve the contradiction in its marijuana laws. We allow personal use based on privacy rights but not the growth and sale that provides for personal use. We allow medicinal marijuana, but after voters approved that act of mercy and sense in 1998, the state failed to set up any dispensing mechanisms.

Our contradictions reflect the conflicting views we hold about the drug and the difficulty of making law to accommodate them all.

Backers of the current prospective initiative have collected 46,000 signatures for a measure that makes more sense than previous efforts to legalize and regulate the drug.

Its provisions recognize the conflicts. Property owners could still ban its use on their property, and users couldn't smoke on public property. Local jurisdictions could prohibit the sale of the drug, much as local jurisdictions can do with alcohol sales. In a genteel touch, cultivation would have to be discreet. No flaunting of the allowable six-pack of plants in your picture window.

The intent here is to let reason prevail and treat marijuana like alcohol rather than like heroin or cocaine. Sounds right, and there's the appeal of taking the trade out of the hands of some bad people. But if the initiative lands on the ballot, I'll need to think it through before deciding how to vote. Alaskans seemed to do that with their approval of medicinal marijuana in 1998 and their rejection of less thoughtful legalization measures in 2000 and 2004.

But here's the thing -- cannabis just doesn't seem like a worthy cause for so much effort. One of my older sons, in his pre-Marine days, backed calls to legalize marijuana with fellow students at the University of Puget Sound. I sent him an email asking if he might find a better cause to fight for. Marijuana? To the barricades! For self-indulgence! For munchies!

Maybe the cause is individual freedom, privacy and common sense. But it looks more like smoke.

-- Frank Gerjevic

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