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Deborah Williams: Concern over marijuana concentrates is not fear-mongering

Committed and diverse Alaskans have come together to thoughtfully oppose Ballot Measure 2. This predominantly outside-funded ballot measure seeks to commercialize, industrialize, and advertise marijuana, marijuana edibles, and marijuana concentrates (such as "butane hash oil," "shatter," and "earwax") in Alaska.

The group Big Marijuana. Big Mistake. Vote No On 2" consists of dedicated Alaskans throughout the state, including Alaska Native leaders, ministers, educators, tourism and other business owners, youth workers, Alaskans in health and social services, and more -- of all political persuasions. We truly believe, after carefully reviewing Ballot Measure 2 and its overbroad, Lower-48 inspired initiative language -- and after seeing the very serious problems that are occurring in Colorado -- that this is a harmful, costly and wrong approach for Alaska. Alaska voters deserve the best information about the initiative, which is why we produced a website (www.bigmarijuanabigmistake.org) that includes a documented and comprehensive PowerPoint. Our approach is not alarmist - but we agree that the facts themselves are alarming.

Recently, Mike Dingman wrote an opinion piece about opposition efforts to Ballot Measure 2. While we concur with several of his points, we respectfully disagree with his incorrect statements.

We agree with Mr. Dingman that "being against the marijuana initiative is a perfectly reasonable stance. There are plenty of rational arguments in opposition to allowing the regulation of marijuana in Alaska," and that we need an "open, honest, reasonable debate about how we want to handle marijuana in Alaska."

That is why we must take issue with Mr. Dingman's and initiative-backers' failure to be open about the definition of marijuana in the initiative. The definition is extreme and deeply problematic - and it is not the "marijuana" that Mr. Dingman claims most Alaskans "know."

"Marijuana" is defined to mean "all parts of the plant... and every compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of the plant, its seed, or its resin, including marijuana concentrate."

We urge every Alaskan voter to Google "marijuana concentrates," including butane hash oil, shatter, crumble, dabs and earwax. While some residents may have used one or more of these newer street products, I would conservatively estimate that 95 percent of the Alaskans I have talked to have never heard of them, nor do a majority of Alaskans understand how these products are used (often involving blow torches) or their intensity (up to 70-80 percent THC, a key psychoactive component of marijuana).

This is not the marijuana that most Alaskans know, but this is the marijuana - together with child-friendly marijuana edibles (such as lollipops, "Krondike" ice cream bars, and "Pot Tarts") - that will be commercialized, advertised, and industrialized in Alaska if the initiative passes. And, if legalized, this is the future of marijuana according to numerous sources, like Leafly.com, which says, "The future of cannabis is steering toward these potent concentrated forms ... ."

Mr. Dingman improperly stated that this initiative does not undermine local option for communities regarding marijuana. It does. While the initiative does give communities the option to preclude retail stores or manufacturing facilities, the initiative explicitly eliminates the ability of communities to prohibit the transport of marijuana, marijuana concentrates and potent edibles into their community. Proponents argue that the Alaska Supreme Court's Ravin decision addresses this issue. It does not.

Decided in 1975, the Ravin decision certainly did not involve marijuana concentrates like shatter or butane hash oil. It certainly did not legalize the transportation of 28 grams of shatter or butane hash oil into a community. And it certainly did not prevent a community from prohibiting the transportation or transfer of 28 grams of shatter, or marijuana infused lollipops, or earwax into or within their communities. This initiative undermines local option.

One of the most troubling aspects of this initiative involves the advertising that is likely to occur if the initiative is passed. While the initiative states that the advertising and displaying of marijuana and marijuana products might be subject to "reasonable restrictions," the experience in Colorado shows that in-your-face marijuana and marijuana edible advertising is pervasive, and that certain restrictions have been legally challenged by the marijuana industry, citing the First Amendment. Marijuana advertising in Colorado has often been blatantly youth-friendly and aggressively promotional. Alaska would expect the same.

Recent polls indicate a marked decline in the popularity of the initiative. Mr. Dingman also did not use the most recent poll figures. A May 14 Public Policy poll found only 48 percent of Alaskans support the initiative.

When Alaskans look at the extreme definitions of marijuana in the initiative and examine what is going on in Colorado (including two deaths connected to recreational marijuana edibles since January); and when Alaskans think about the serious problems and costs, it is clear that a "no" vote on this initiative is the right vote for Alaska's future, Alaska's children, Alaska's economy, Alaska's health, Alaska's productivity, and Alaska's spirit. Voting for big marijuana would be a big mistake.

Deborah Williams is deputy treasurer for the "Big Marijuana. Big Mistake. Vote No on 2." campaign.

 



By DEBORAH WILLIAMS