Alaska just got one step closer to fully legalizing marijuana. But ultimately, like in Colorado and Washington, it will be voters who make the final call.
Activists in Anchorage delivered a petition with over 45,000 signatures to Alaska Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell on Wednesday, organizers confirmed to The Huffington Post over the phone. If Treadwell's office verifies that the petition has at least 30,169 valid signatures on it, the issue will appear on the ballot in Alaska in August, giving residents the chance to vote whether or not to legalize weed.
Polls have suggested that Alaskans will vote to legalize marijuana. A survey conducted in early 2013 by Public Policy Polling found that 54 percent of Alaska voters support legalizing weed for recreational use, according to an April report by the Anchorage Daily News.
The state has already taken the steps of decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana and legalizing use of the plant for medical purposes.
The latest petition, delivered by the grassroots-organizing group The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana, included a lengthy proposed draft of legislation that would make it legal for state residents 21 years old and older to possess up to an ounce of weed and up to six cannabis plants (as long as no more than three are flowering).
The petition's draft law also allows for the creation of marijuana retail stores, marijuana cultivation facilities, marijuana infused-product manufacturers and marijuana testing facilities. Under the proposal, a $50 tax would be levied on each ounce of pot sold in the state. Just like in Colorado and under current Alaska law, it would still be illegal to blaze in public. But of course, the proposal from the grassroots group could always be revised by lawmakers down the road.
"Regulating marijuana in Alaska will allow law enforcement officials to focus on violent and otherwise harmful crimes instead of adults who are simply choosing to use a substance objectively less harmful than alcohol,” said former Alaska legislator and Public Safety Commissioner Bill Parker, one of the primary sponsors of the initiative, according to the press release.
"The proposed initiative will take marijuana sales out of the underground market and put them in legitimate, taxpaying businesses,” added Tim Hinterberger, another sponsor and a professor of developmental biology at the University of Alaska in Anchorage. “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."
Voters in Colorado and Washington voted to fully legalize weed in November 2012. Efforts to reform marijuana laws are also underway in Arizona, California, Maine, Delaware, Montana, Nevada, New York, Rhode Island, Oregon, Vermont and Washington, D.C.