Different strains of pot are displayed for sale at Medicine Man marijuana dispensary in Denver, Friday Dec. 27, 2013.
Brennan Linsley/AP

Alaska group submits petition for ballot measure to legalize pot

Advocates in favor of legalizing marijuana are looking to score another victory this year in an unlikely state.

The Alaska Campaign to Regulate Marijuana submitted around 46,000 signatures to state election officials on Wednesday in favor of legalizing recreational marijuana use. The signatures, if verified, top the 30,000 needed to put an initiative on the state’s August ballot. 

“It’s not that the initiative would bring marijuana to Alaska,” Bill Parker, one of the initiative’s sponsors, told the Anchorage Daily News. ”Marijuana is already in Alaska. It would legalize, regulate and tax it. It would treat it like alcohol.”

The proposed initiative is modeled after the the most recently successful one in Colorado to legalize recreational marijuana. Colorado voters approved a ballot measure to tax recreational marijuana last November with 65% of the vote. The new law, that went into effect at the start of the year, imposes a 15% excise tax on marijuana wholesales, and a 10% sales tax on retail purchases. The state estimated on Wednesday it’s brought in more than $5 million in sales, including $1 million on Jan. 1.

Alaska is not the only state considering changing its laws concerning marijuana sales. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday said he plans to issue an executive order that would legalize medical marijuana in New York State. “Research suggests that medical marijuana can help manage the pain and treatment of patients with cancer and other serious illnesses,” Cuomo said. “We will establish a program allowing up to 20 hospitals to prescribe medical marijuana and we will monitor the effectiveness and the feasibility of a medical marijuana program.”

Voters in Alaska legalized the use of medical marijuana in 1998, but failed to legalize recreational marijuana twice in the past. If approved by voters in August, Alaska would become the third state to legalize recreational marijuana.