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In November 2014, Alaska voters adopted an initiative legalizing personal, nonmedical use of marijuana in the state. The initiative, Ballot Measure 2, expands the legalized possession of marijuana for personal use by adults and sets up a system to license, regulate, and tax commercial production, processing, and sales of the drug for personal use.
Ballot Measure 2
The new Alaska law legalizes the possession of marijuana by adults age 21 and over for personal, nonmedical use. Alaska has an existing medical marijuana law that allows use for certified medical purposes. Ballot Measure 2 expressly states that it will not “diminish the rights” of medical marijuana patients under Alaska’s existing medical marijuana law.
Ballot Measure 2 also legalizes commercial grow and retail operations, and sets up a procedure to regulate and tax such operations. The law is slated to take effect 90 days after the election is certified.
Components of the Law
The new law declares “that the use of marijuana should be legal for persons 21 years of age or older” to enhance individual freedom and “in the interest of allowing law enforcement to focus on violent and property crimes.”
Under Ballot Measure 2, adults age 21 or older in Alaska may possess up to one ounce of marijuana. In addition, adults may grow up to six plants (with up to three flowering) for personal use.
Commercial sale and regulation
The Alaska Alcohol Beverage Control Board has nine months to enact regulations for the production, processing, and sale of marijuana for personal use. The regulatory board will begin accepting applications from those interested in growing, processing, or selling marijuana one year after the effective date of the law.
The law allows municipalities to ban retail marijuana establishments, but cities may not ban personal possession or marijuana growing for personal use.
Ballot Measure 2 creates the following types of marijuana establishments:
- retail stores
- cultivation facilities
- marijuana-infused product manufacturers (to make edibles and extracts for vaporizer pens), and
- testing facilities.
Under the new law, Alaska imposes a $50 excise tax on every ounce of marijuana sold or transferred from a cultivation or production facility to a retail outlet.
Growing for personal use
As soon as the law takes effect, adults in Alaska may grow up to six plants (of which three may be flowering) for their own personal, nonmedical use. However, commercial cultivation cannot begin until the cultivator obtains a license, and the state will not begin accepting applications for licenses until one year after the law takes effect (no earlier than December 2015).
Under the law, anyone growing plants for their own use must grow them in a location that is not visible to the general public and where they are secure from unauthorized access. And, plants grown for personal use may be grown only:
- on the grower’s own private property, or
- with the prior approval of the owner of the property.
Alaskans will not be able to sell marijuana for personal, nonmedical use legally anywhere in the state until sometime in after licenses are issued and retail operations begin (see above). However, as soon as the law takes effect, it will be legal for anyone age 21 or over give up to one ounce of marijuana or up to six immature marijuana plants to another person age 21 or over for personal, nonmedical use. Such exchanges are legal only if they are gifts; nothing of value may be exchanged for the marijuana.
Public use not allowed
Ballot Measure 2 prohibits public consumption of marijuana. Anyone who violates this prohibition faces a fine of up to $100.
No effect on employment laws
The new law explicitly states that it is not intended to require employers to permit the consumption, possession, transfer, growth, or sale of marijuana at the place of employment, nor is it intended to affect employer policies restricting marijuana use.
Carrying marijuana in any form across state lines is a violation of federal law, and nothing in Ballot Measure 2 changes that. Ballot Measure 2 does not alter the state’s prohibition on driving under the influence of marijuana; it will still be illegal to drive under the influence of marijuana.