Court of Appeals considering pot case

Posted: Sunday, August 31, 2003

JUNEAU (AP) A state appellate court has affirmed the right of Alaskans to possess a small amount of marijuana in their home in a ruling handed down Friday.

The state Court of Appeals, in a unanimous ruling, reversed a 2001 conviction of a North Pole man found with marijuana in his home and ordered a new trial.

In striking down the conviction of David S. Noy, the court called into question a 1990 voter initiative that criminalized possession of any amount of marijuana.

The ruling drew an immediate reaction from Republican Gov. Frank Murkowski, who called it ''regrettable.'' Attorney General Gregg Renkes also vowed to seek a state Supreme Court review.

''Substance abuse is causing great harm to our rural society, specifically our young people,'' Murkowski said in a statement.

North Pole police arrested Noy on July 27, 2001 after a search of his home turned up five live pot plants, growing equipment and other paraphernalia.

A jury convicted Noy of one count of sixth-degree misconduct involving a controlled substance, a misdemeanor charge of possessing less than eight ounces of marijuana.

Noy argued a privacy provision in the Alaska Constitution made it legal to own the marijuana. The appellate court reversed the conviction but upheld a state drug-dealer law making it illegal to possess more than four ounces of marijuana in a home.

''Alaska citizens have a right to possess less than four ounces of marijuana in their home for personal use,'' said Appeals Judge David Stewart. State prosecutors could retry Noy for possession of a greater quantity, Stewart said.

''It's a tremendous victory for civil liberties and personal privacy rights,'' said Howard Scaman, of the pro-marijuana group STRAIGHT. ''This could be the bellwether case for the rest of the country.''

The ruling affirms a controversial 1975 Alaska Supreme Court decision that allowed Alaskans to possess marijuana in their home only for personal use. The Legislature deemed possession of more than four ounces proof that a resident is dealing drugs.

The appellate court ruling left that prohibition in place.

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