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Parnell won't study pot measure ahead of vote

Posted: July 8, 2014 - 7:49pm

FAIRBANKS (AP) — Gov. Sean Parnell said he will not use state resources to study the implications of legalizing marijuana unless voters approve a pot initiative this fall.

Parnell said he would work to implement the initiative if it passes in November; the Republican also is up for re-election this year. But he said he personally opposes the measure, which would legalize recreational use of marijuana by those 21 years of age or older.

“I’m not excited about the prospect,” he told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner during an editorial board meeting. “I think we’re not sending the right message to our kids.”

Voters in Colorado and Washington approved similar measures in 2012. But it took more than a year to put in place the systems for oversight, taxation and quality control. Colorado began marijuana sales Jan. 1, while sales were first allowed in Washington on Tuesday.

If Ballot Measure 2 passes, Alaska would become the third state to legalize recreational marijuana use. Supporters say marijuana should be taxed and regulated in a manner similar to alcohol.

A spokesman for the ballot group earlier this year questioned the state’s initial estimated cost for implementation as “poorly researched fiction.” Cost estimates are part of the certification process for proposed initiatives in Alaska.

Parnell said Alaska would have the benefit of learning from what happened in Colorado and Washington. He said he discussed legalization with Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, whose advice was: “Don’t go into this lightly.”

“He urged caution among governors when it comes to passage of this,” he said. “There are a lot of unintended consequences.”

While Parnell acknowledged there are challenges that could come from legalization, he said he won’t ask state employees to prepare for possible legalization now. He said the Department of Law should focus on its existing workload, not on what may happen after the election.

If the measure passes, Parnell said the Legislature and state regulatory agencies would need to establish oversight rules. Ballot Measure 2 also would create a Marijuana Control Board to regulate the new industry.

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