Of the six ballot measures before voters on Nov. 7, Ballot Measure No. 5 is the most ludicrous.
Alaskans should vote a resounding "No."
Among other things, this measure would regulate marijuana like alcoholic beverages and do away with civil and criminal penalties for people 18 years old and older who use marijuana or other hemp products. It provides for the creation of an advisory panel which would study and report on making restitution to people who have been imprisoned, fined or had property seized for acts that would no longer be illegal under the measure.
The measure is terrible public policy. It flies in the face of logic and the principles of healthy communities that most Alaskans support.
While it may be true, as supporters of the initiative petition have said, that "there simply is no reason to punish responsible adults for using marijuana in the privacy of their own homes," this measure reaches so far beyond that premise that it loses all credibility.
It directs state officials to challenge federal laws that conflict with the measure. It prohibits state funds or employees from being used to help enforce federal laws that regulate acts that are no longer illegal under the measure. It grants amnesty to those convicted in the past of marijuana crimes. And it's possible the bill could lead to restitution for those convicted of such crimes.
Talk about opening Pandora's box and creating a bureaucratic nightmare.
There may be legitimate arguments about how prohibition against alcohol didn't work and how it doesn't work with marijuana either. But legal alcohol has its own set of social and health problems that have had a devastating effect on Alaska and Alaskans. This law has the potential to do the same.
It doesn't matter that the measure allows laws to be enacted to regulate those under the influence of marijuana who are doing things that could be harmful to public safety, including driving or operating heavy machinery. In doesn't matter that it allows laws to limit the use of "hemp intoxicating products" in public places.
The measure would make Alaska a laughingstock, never mind a drug haven. Let's not forget the hypocritical message it sends young people, after years of teaching them to "just say no" to alcohol and drugs.
The great irony of the measure is expressed in the full text of the proposed law in a section titled "purpose of the initiative."
"The initiative is an exercise of the powers of the State for the promotion and protection of the safety, welfare, health and privacy of the people, and the environment of the State, to allow for the industrial and medicinal type uses of hemp, to eliminate the evils associated with unlicensed and unlawful cultivation, selling and dispensing of hemp, and to promote temperance in the consumption of hemp as an intoxicant. It is hereby declared that the subject matter of this initiative involves in the highest degree, the economic, social and moral well being and the safety of the State and all its people."
Nothing could be further from the truth. The measure puts the safety, welfare and health of Alaskans at risk.
What in the world were people thinking -- or smoking -- to come up with this?
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