In a series of television and radio ads released in Alaska Wednesday, active and retired members of the state's law enforcement community are backing the recreational marijuana legalization measure that voters will decide on in less than three weeks.
“In all my years on the streets, it’s hard to recall a single time where marijuana use itself was the cause of a violent incident," Jess Gondek, an officer in Valdez, Alaska, says in one of the ads. “As a police officer, I do believe Ballot Measure 2 will allow law enforcement to focus on more serious issues in Alaska.”
In a second television ad, Bill Parker, a former deputy commissioner for the Alaska Department of Corrections, says that "the war on marijuana is wasteful, and it hasn't worked." Parker adds that law enforcement officials' time and resources are limited, and using them on the enforcement of marijuana prohibition is like “using a hammer to go after a mosquito.”
Both videos include text saying that according to the state's Department of Public Safety, there have been more than 8,000 arrests for marijuana possession in Alaska since 2004.
A third ad, airing on radio, features Alaska's former Chief Prosecutor Laurie Constantino, who says that the state's marijuana prohibition laws "aren't working" and "have caused more problems than they've solved."
The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, a nonprofit backed by marijuana reform groups Marijuana Policy Project and Drug Policy Alliance, paid for the campaign.
Of course, not all law enforcement officers are in agreement on the issue. Ten of Alaska's police chiefs from both rural and urban areas met in Anchorage this week to voice their opposition to legalization.
“We already have the highest arrest rates [for substance abuse] of any Alaska community,” Nome Police Chief John Papasodora said at the meeting, according to Alaska Dispatch News. “I can see that increasing [with the passage of Measure 2].”
Under Measure 2, adults 21 and older would be able to possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana and grow up to six plants (with no more than three being mature) for personal use. The measure also legalizes the manufacture, sale and possession of marijuana paraphernalia, like devices used for smoking or storing the plant.
Oregon, Washington, D.C., and Florida are also voting on some form of marijuana legalization in November, but the fate of Alaska's measure seems the most uncertain. Two polls released on the same day last month showed nearly opposite reactions from voters about legalizing the substance, with one finding 53 percent opposed while the other recorded 57 percent in favor.
Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell (R) opposes the measure and has said he isn't "excited about the prospect" of legal marijuana. But, he has also said he will respect the will of the voters and implement the initiative if it passes.
This is the third attempt to legalize recreational marijuana in Alaska, with voters rejecting measures in 2000 and 2004. Alaska voters legalized medical marijuana in 1998.
While 23 states have legalized marijuana for medical use, both Colorado and Washington became the first two states to legalize recreational marijuana in 2012. Two new government forecasts project that Colorado and Washington could generate more than $800 million in revenue before 2020 from marijuana legalization.
Despite states loosening marijuana laws, the plant remains banned by the federal government, which continues to classify it as a Schedule I substance along with heroin and LSD.