Alaska Becomes the 3rd State to Legalize Marijuana


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.

Anthony, a longtime cannabis law reform advocate, was Chief Petitioner and co-author of Measure 91, Oregon's cannabis legalization effort. He served as director of both the New Approach Oregon and Vote Yes on 91 PACs, the political action committees responsible for the state's legalization campaign. As director of New Approach Oregon, Anthony continues to work towards effectively implementing the cannabis legalization system while protecting small business owners and the rights of patients. He sits on the Oregon Marijuana Rules Advisory Committee and fights for sensible rules at the legislature as well as city councils and county commissions across the state. Anthony helps cannabis business comply with Oregon's laws and advises advocates across the country. He also serves as content director of both the International Cannabis Business Conference and the Oregon Marijuana Business Conference, helping share the vision of moving the cannabis industry forward in a way that maintains the focus on keeping people out of prison and protecting patients. He was a member of the Oregon Health Authority Rules Advisory Committee, assisting the drafting of the administrative rules governing Oregon’s state-licensed medical marijuana facilities. He first co-authored and helped pass successful marijuana law reform measures while a law student at the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Law. He passed the Oregon Bar in 2005 and practiced criminal defense for two years before transitioning to working full-time in the political advocacy realm. His blogs on Marijuana Politics are personal in nature and don't speak for or reflect the opinions of any group or organization.