Department of Law turns down marijuana initiative

Posted: Wednesday, July 11, 2001

JUNEAU (AP) -- The state Department of Law has disapproved a ballot initiative that would have asked voters to decriminalize marijuana.

Sponsors said they intend to have a new version ready in time to get it on the general election ballot next year.

The petition as originally submitted in April would decriminalize marijuana and mandate a system to regulate it, including its production and distribution.

Assistant Attorney General Sarah Felix said parts of the initiative didn't pass constitutional muster.

Felix pointed to a provision of the proposed initiative allowing the Legislature to impose a tax on marijuana. If the Legislature failed to pass such a tax, the proposed initiative would give the taxing authority to local communities.

Felix said that's inconsistent with the state constitution, which says the power of taxation shall never be surrendered.

Al Anders, of the organization Free Hemp, said the sponsors will rewrite the initiative and try again.

The initiative sponsors have the right to change their bill and reapply for a place on the ballot. A new version would also have to go through legal review.

Sponsors will have to gather more than 28,000 voter signatures by Jan. 14 to get the question on the 2002 election ballot.

The state has seen numerous attempts to legalize marijuana in the past, most recently an initiative that failed in the 2000 general election.

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