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Frank Murkowski: Alaskans should just say no to 'Big Marijuana'

Everyone has something to say on the marijuana issue, it's just that not everyone has said it yet.

For the life of me I can't understand the rush to legalize marijuana in our state, as Ballot Measure 2 would do. It reminds me of the herd mentality of the lemmings stampeding off the cliff with little thought to the consequences.

The fact that Colorado and Washington state have recently legalized marijuana should give us pause to consider the impacts. We should wait and see how both the Colorado and Washington efforts unfold. There is no incentive to be among the first.

Should the proposal become law, would it be beneficial to our citizenry, our youths and the quality of life? What will be the impact on rural Alaskans? These are just a few of the many unanswered questions before Alaskans as we prepare to vote.

Why is the effort being initiated in Alaska? It is simply because Alaska is a cheap place to run an initiative campaign. It also has a very young population. Children and teens are especially vulnerable to potential harm from long-term pot use, and this experiment is not worth risking their futures.

Where is the Outside money coming from in support of this ballot initiative? The Marijuana Policy Project of Washington, D.C., and the Drug Policy Alliance of New York have supplied the bulk of the funding. Don't be fooled -- this is big business.

I believe the ballot process is flawed. If enough money can be raised outside the state to hire people to gather signatures, any issue can get on the ballot. The process circumvents the responsibility of legislators. Had the issue originated in our state Legislature, it would have failed overwhelmingly because every legislator would have to vote on the issue. The ballot initiative process allows any elected official to simply take a walk and avoid being held accountable. This is simply wrong. Alaskans need to know from each of their elected representatives, from the Legislature to the governor and the federal delegation, whether they support or oppose this important ballot measure. They need to respond with a simple yes or no answer.

If Ballot Measure 2 passes, it would establish a dual system. It would be unlawful to buy or sell marijuana under federal law but permissible under state law. Such an inconsistency has the federal government telling us one thing and the state government telling us another. Further, the enforcement of contradictory marijuana regulations would be very difficult for those in law enforcement. I would urge all Alaskans to read the statement from the Alaska Peace Officers Association, which details the difficulties associated with maintaining law and order.

It would also make hiring Alaskans for jobs that require drug screening more difficult, and may complicate insurance payouts if an accident happens. Jim Jansen of Lynden Transport and Alaska Marine Lines indicated to me that his businesses require zero tolerance, and he sees legalization as a major headache.

Our opponents believe that with access to Outside funds they can buy our votes on Ballot Meaure 2. Let's tell them that Alaska's quality of life is not for sale. We have defeated this issue once and we can do it again. Big Marijuana, Big Mistake for Alaska.

Frank Murkowski, a Republican, represented Alaska for four terms in the U.S. Senate and served one term as governor.

The views expressed here are the writer's own and are not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Dispatch News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary(at)alaskadispatch.com.

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