ANCHORAGE(AP) -- Alaska law enforcement officials are questioning claims made by country music legend Willie Nelson in radio political advertisements urging Alaskans to legalize marijuana.
''Hi, this is Willie Nelson,'' the man drawls in his weathered voice. ''I've been to Alaska several times, and I've always loved the people I've met and appreciated your sense of personal freedom. But did you know you also have the highest arrest rate for marijuana smoking in the entire country?''
Alaska State Troopers and Anchorage police say they hardly ever take someone away in handcuffs whose only crime is smoking marijuana, though they may issue a citation and give the smoker a court date. One 23-year veteran of the Anchorage Police Department said he'd never heard of an arrest for smoking pot.
The ad, airing since last week, was paid for by Alaskans for Privacy. Its chairman, Randall Patterson, said the arrest rate information came from the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, based on a report by Jon Gettman, who says his data is based on FBI statistics.
According to Gettman, the arrest figures are for selling as well as possession. The figures also would include people arrested on murder charges, for example, who also happened to be carrying some marijuana.
Nelson recorded the advertisement free this year at the Farm Aid concert in Virginia, Patterson said.
Enlisting him in the campaign, done with the help of NORML, was a coup for Alaskans for Privacy, the quietest of the three Anchorage-based campaigns working for approval of Proposition 5.
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