October 16: Fairbanks Daily News-Miner on Hemp Initiative:

Posted: Monday, October 16, 2000

The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner's refusal to pay homage to the 1975 Ravin decision has the legalized-marijuana lobby in quite a dither.

How dare we ignore the Alaska Supreme Court's hallowed finding that the 1972 pot bust of motorist and attorney Irwin Ravin represented an unconstitutional trampling of Alaska's then-new Right to Privacy.

How dare we point out the expressed intent of the pot recriminalization statute approved by voters in 1990, without acknowledging subsequent suggestions from the court that the Ravin decision still stands as a barrier to prosecution.

We are aware of the Ravin decision. We are aware as well of the paralysis it's inflicted on enforcement of Alaska's marijuana law. We simply don't agree with the court's broadening of Alaska's constitutional protection of individual privacy into a shield against marijuana prosecution.

For the sake of argument, let's consult the constitutional provision in question.

Article I, Section 22, of the Alaska Constitution states: ''The right of the people to privacy is recognized and shall not be infringed. The legislature shall implement this section.''

Where in that clause is the stated license to cultivate, possess, consume or sell an otherwise controlled substance?

Courts have been known to change their opinions. There was a time, for example, when federal courts found room for slavery and segregation within the U.S. Constitution.

Take the case of Dred Scott, a slave residing in St. Louis back in the 1840s.

Scott brought suit in federal court seeking his family's freedom. The U.S. Supreme Court not only turned the slave down, Chief Justice Roger Brooke Taney concluded that blacks, even when free, could never become citizens of the United States and thus had no right to sue in federal court. In that same ruling, Taney found that Congress had no authority to prohibit slavery in federal territories, striking down a portion of the Missouri Compromise.

The Ravin decision, now 25 years old, is, in our opinion, another reflection of an era best left behind. For that reason, we contend it's a mistake to put much stock in more recent decisions founded upon Ravin's skewed logic. Given the right case, Alaska's judiciary may well take an entirely different view, more in keeping with present community values.

Don't get us wrong, Alaskans retain a strong interest in maintaining individual privacy of the sort expressly guaranteed in our constitution. But society's tolerance for substance abuse of all sorts is shrinking, even in this state. Hence, Ravin's interpretation of privacy is overly broad and outdated.

This is not, as hemp supporters choose to believe, the result of federally funded commercials and plots by anti-drug czars. It's a recognition shared by many top law enforcement and public health officials that the only cure for America's drug problems rests in treatment and education.

In that regard, Ballot Measure No. 5's provision for radical legalization of marijuana in Alaska simply sends the wrong message.

The U.S. Supreme Court's views toward civil rights changed along with society's appreciation for the harm wrought by racism. We expect Ravin, too, will someday be overturned by this state's high court.

In the meantime, next month's election presents Alaska voters with an opportunity to reaffirm their support for drug enforcement, without compromising the goals of our state constitution's Right to Privacy.

Vote 'No' on Ballot Measure No. 5.

Marijuana cultivation, marketing, imbibing and, judging from the rhetoric of advocates, hemp worship, isn't an area of law meriting Alaska's official seal of approval.

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