Pot, beer subject of ballot initiatives

Posted: Tuesday, September 25, 2001

JUNEAU (AP) -- Marijuana use would be legal and restrictions on beer makers would be lifted under separate proposed ballot measures filed with the state Division of Elections.

A measure to do away with civil and criminal penalties for people 21 or older who use marijuana or hemp products was filed by Anchorage-based Free Hemp in Alaska.

Before the group can circulate a petition to get the initiative on the ballot, the state must approve the ballot language

A similar initiative was rejected in July as being unconstitutional. It would have required local governments to tax and regulate commercial production of marijuana if the Legislature failed to do so.

''We wanted to help provide guidance for how municipalities could benefit from regulating legalized marijuana but it just proved too difficult,'' said Tom Hinterberger, a sponsor of the initiative.

A proposal to legalize marijuana and hemp was rejected by Alaska voters last year and those opposed to it are gearing up for another fight.

''People can't think on that stuff, they can't react, they're not rational, they're lazy, and it destroys everything that's important to being the best you can be,'' said Wev Shea, an Anchorage attorney who led the fight against it last year.

Another initiative would lift restriction on how much alcohol brewpubs can produce annually and allow breweries to own up to two restaurants to sell their product directly to patrons.

Currently, breweries are barred from owning restaurants and brewpubs are limited to producing only 75,000 gallons of beer a year to sell to patrons.

That temperance law was adopted out of concern that breweries with direct access to consumers would promote their products too heavily and lead to alcohol abuse, said Doug Griffin, director of the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Board.

But Clark Pelz, head brewer at Moose's Tooth brewpub in Anchorage, said his establishment has resorted to selling competitors' beers because of the restriction on their own beer production.

Pelz, who is pushing the initiative, said the measure would allow the brewpub to sell more of its own products.

However, the measure could pressure breweries to enter the restaurant business to compete, Griffin said.

The language of that measure still needs state approval before it could go on the ballot.

Organizers of both initiatives must collect 28,783 signatures by Jan. 14 to get their respective measures on the 2002 general election ballot. That election is Nov. 5.

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