During law school, my favorite case was Ravin v. State, an Alaska Supreme Court decision declaring that the possession and cultivation of personal amounts of marijuana was legal under the Alaska Constitution. The court determined that Alaskans were a different breed, individualistic and supporting more privacy rights than other state citizens. The Alaska Constitution, contrary to the United States Constitution, explicitly included a right to privacy in the text. The text of the state constitution, along with the unique nature of Alaskans, allowed the court to conclude that the state hadn’t met the burden of proof to show that the state’s interest in outlawing marijuana should override Alaskans right to privacy in their own homes.
Alaskans have taken that right to privacy laid out in Ravin, one step further, legalizing marijuana for all adults over 21 and establishing a licensed and regulated system to create jobs and generate revenue for the state. While Oregon was the third state to vote for marijuana legalization, Alaska earned the right to be the third state to actually legalize marijuana as February 24, 2015, marks the day Alaska’s personal possession limits went into effect, while Oregonians must wait until July 1st (although four county district attorneys, including the state’s most populous county, (Multnomah) have determined to treat marijuana as if July 1st is already here.)
Alaska also has the distinction of being the first “red” Republican state to legalize marijuana. While the state certainly has a libertarian streak, it is a safe state for the Republican Party while Oregon and Washington are “blue” Democratic states and Colorado is more of a “purple” state that can swing red or blue. Alaska helps demonstrate that marijuana legalization is a bipartisan issue that cuts across party and ideological lines. This red state provides hope that states such as Arizona, Nevada, Missouri, Florida and Ohio may very well be joining the next wave of legalization states that includes California, Massachusetts, Maine and New Mexico. So congratulations and thank you to all of the Alaskan advocates and voters that made history and helped move marijuana legalization more mainstream.