Colorado and the state of Washington broke new legal ground when they legalized use of marijuana, but they haven’t had much company. Voters in the District of Columbia soon followed, though congressional Republicans, ignoring their own principles about local control, had other ideas.
Today, however, the very small pot club gets a third member. The Alaska Dispatch News reported this morning:
Feb. 24, 2015, is a historic day in the Last Frontier: Alaska becomes the third state in the U.S. in which recreational cannabis use is legalized. […]State and local governments are tasked with redefining the parameters of marijuana as it is brought out of the shadows and into well-lit, regulated territory. Much remains to be seen.
There was a period of transition and confusion in Colorado and Washington after state laws changed, and it’s likely Alaska, which legalized pot by popular referenda, will have similar short-term issues. Broadly speaking, though, the bottom line is pretty straightforward: Alaskans who are 21 and over can legally “possess, transport and display up to 1 ounce of marijuana and accompanying accessories.” They can also “possess, grow, process and transport up to six marijuana plants, three of which may be flowering.”
There are restrictions on sales, quantities, driving under the influence, and partaking in public. Private businesses can, if they choose, still impose drug tests on employees and fire those who test positive.
A public-education campaign is already under way to “encourage responsible consumption” – the tagline: ”With great marijuana laws comes great responsibility” – and in the coming months, the state intends to develop a state agency responsible for regulating commercial production and sales. Marijuana businesses, such as those in Colorado and Washington, will soon follow.
As for which state may be next, keep an eye on Vermont, where legislation is already pending. It’s not likely to be voted on until next year, but the Green Mountain State, if it moves forward, would be the first state to legalize marijuana through the legislative process.
It’s worth noting that federal drug laws have not changed, and these state experiments are permitted, in effect, because Attorney General Eric Holder and the Obama administration have endorsed them. A change in administrations in 2017 could, in theory, jeopardize these state initiatives.