Thursday, November 26, 2020

Alaskas Proposal 5 blows smoke in governments face

If it passes or goes up in smoke, a proposal on the Alaskan ballot will plant a seed in the minds of Alaskan voters - challenging their positions on the use of an illegal substance.

Alaskan voters will decide Tuesday whether to prohibit state enforcement of marijuana laws. Proposal 5 grants a person 18 or older the ability to possess, grow, distribute and use marijuana and hemp products. If approved, doctors also may prescribe medicinal marijuana.

The measure by no means legalizes the drug - users still are subject to federal law, which prohibits its use - but it does eliminate state laws that allow the state to prosecute offenders. This weakens marijuana legislation by prohibiting the use of state funds or personnel to help enforce federal laws that regulate acts that are no longer illegal under the measure.

A modest proposal? No, because it challenges more than state government interference. Proposal 5 undermines federal law as well as the U.S. judicial system as the measure also contests past rulings - which could pardon people who committed marijuana crimes that are no longer illegal under the state measure.

The proposal directs state officials to challenge federal laws that conflict with the Alaskan measure.

However, it also allows for laws to be enacted to regulate people under the influence of marijuana who are doing things that may affect public safety such as driving cars or operating heaving machinery.

If Proposal 5 does pass, it creates an advisory panel that would study and report on making restitution for people who were imprisoned or fined or had property forfeited for acts that are no longer illegal under the measure - basically showing the government the state will no longer waste time prosecuting the drug.

I understand the proposal only intends to further the interest of Americans who wish to smoke marijuana. I see the effort as a valid attempt to encourage voters to give their voice on the issue of legalizing what is commonly known as a gateway drug. But I would rather this measure fail. I do not have a problem with legalizing marijuana. I even disagree with opponents who believe it to be the first step to legalizing all drugs.

However, I believe this is a federal matter and a waste of space on a state ballot. To those who truly seek marijuana’s legalization, I suggest writing, lobbying and traveling to Washington, D.C.

Marijuana is still generating greater national interest. The drug has brought proposed legislation in several states for medical use as well as an ordinance in Mendocino County, Calif., which, if approved Tuesday, would allow county residents to grow the drug.

Again, the problem I have with the measures is that they only will add to use among college students - which rose 22 percent between 1993 and 1999, according to a study released last week by the Harvard School of Public Health. Marijuana will be readily available since it will be easier to grow in a county of the United States and easier to use in another state. The measures encourage people to grow and smoke what the government has deemed an illegal substance.

I believe it is time the federal government reconsider its policy on marijuana. If states enact laws that contradict federal decisions and the use of the drug is growing, then maybe the U.S. government should follow the interests of its people.

Kevin Hardy, State News opinion editor, can be reached at


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