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Legislators send marijuana crime bill back to drawing board

  • Author: Suzanna Caldwell
  • Updated: September 28, 2016
  • Published January 28, 2015

Anchorage Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux said Wednesday she would postpone meetings of the state House and Senate judiciary committees on a bill that would define Alaska's criminal marijuana laws until drafters complete a version of the law that better reflects "the will of the people."

The decision in Wednesday's joint Judiciary Committee meeting came after backlash from both legislators and supporters of Ballot Measure 2 who expressed concern and confusion over provisions in Senate Bill 30 on how to address use and possession of recreational marijuana.

The voter-approved initiative made use and possession of up to 1 ounce of marijuana legal for those 21 and over, beginning Feb. 24. But the first version of SB 30 would have retained the existing prohibition against the possession, sale and manufacture of marijuana, and instead added a provision allowing someone charged with a marijuana-related crime to use the initiative as a legal defense in court.

That drew ire from legislators and the public, who raised concerns that someone could still technically be charged with marijuana-related crimes, despite the intent of the ballot measure.

A meeting on the bill was initially scheduled for Friday; LeDoux said that future meetings would be canceled until another draft of the bill was ready, though it was unclear when that would be.

Amy Saltzman, a legislative staff member working on the bill, told The Associated Press that lawmakers still want to pass a version of the bill by Feb. 24.

Despite pushing back the bill, the committees continued to hear testimony Wednesday, including from Alcoholic Beverage Control Board Director Cynthia Franklin and Marijuana Policy Project Director of State Policies Karen O'Keefe.