Making money off of gold nuggets could be soon replaced by green nuggets in Alaska as a ballot initiative to legalize pot for adults 21 and up collected and submitted at least 45,000 signatures Wednesday -15,000 more than necessary to qualify it for a vote this August.
"It's not that the initiative would bring marijuana to Alaska," Bill Parker, a campaigner for the bill and a former Department of Corrections deputy, told the Anchorage Daily News Wednesday. "Marijuana is already in Alaska. It would legalize, regulate and tax it. It would treat it like alcohol."
Backers say their plan is modeled after Colorado's initiative that legalized recreational cannabis sales to adults 21 and up and the possession and use of up to an ounce at a time. Adults 21 and up are also allowed to cultivate up to six plants and keep all that they harvest at their home. Public cannabis use would remain illegal but private use on private property would be legal.
The Alaska proposal is almost identical in what it allows, and is (not surprisingly) backed by the Marijuana Policy Project, which helped fund and write Amendment 64. One small difference is handing control over to the Alaska Alcoholic Beverage Control Board instead of immediately creating a new government regulating agency specifically for pot, like Colorado did with their state Marijuana Enforcement Division.
Like Colorado, localities and municipalities would have the right to ban recreational pot businesses outright. Alaska communities can already ban the sale of alcohol.
"The proposed initiative will take marijuana sales out of the underground market and put them in legitimate, taxpaying businesses," Tim Hinterberger, one of the initiative's backers told CNN. "Replacing marijuana prohibition with a system of taxation and sensible regulation will bolster Alaska's economy by creating jobs and generating revenue for the state."
Of course, not everyone is happy. Anti-pot crusader Kevin Sabet and his ganja hating foes at the national Smarter Approaches to Marijuana say they will be launching a public awareness campaign in the next two months in Alaska to help fight the legalization efforts.
They'll likely use the same tired, baseless lies the Reefer Madness crowd has been spewing for decades now but we doubt Alaskans will listen. The state Supreme Court decriminalized pot in the mid-70s, and Alaskans have a streak of "leave me the hell alone" independence that blends well with a cannabis user's lifestyle. In 2000 an initiative gained 40 percent of the vote and a 2004 attempt gained 44 percent of the vote. Not huge by other issue standards, but relatively high for marijuana a decade ago.