Voters approve ballot initiatives on marijuana, minimum wage, Bristol Bay mining

  • By Dan Joling
  • Wednesday, November 5, 2014 1:22am
  • News

ANCHORAGE — A measure to legalize recreational use of marijuana in Alaska was maintaining a steady lead in early returns Tuesday night.

With nearly two-thirds of the state’s precincts reporting, Alaskans were narrowly approving Ballot Measure 2, which would legalize recreational pot for Alaskans 21 and older.

The language to create a system of taxation and regulation is similar to a measure approved in Colorado and comes a decade after Alaska voters rejected legalizing pot in 2004.

Oregon voters also approved a recreational pot measure Tuesday. Washington state joined Colorado in legalizing recreational marijuana in 2012.

The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, the group behind the Alaska initiative, said marijuana prohibition has been “as ineffective, wasteful, and problematic as alcohol prohibition.”

Pro-pot forces outspent the opposition by a huge margin, funded largely by a national group that backs legalization, the Marijuana Policy Project. Supporters said legalization would free up law enforcement to focus on more serious drug crimes and bring in additional revenue for the state.

Opponents included local governments, law enforcement agencies and Alaska Native and health care groups. The Vote No on 2 group said approval of the measure would harm villages that have no authority over marijuana, hurt children susceptible to mass marketing and run up social costs for damage done to families.

Alaska Native leaders, municipalities and law enforcement officials opposed the measure.

Pot is already legal in small quantities in users’ homes under a 1975 Alaska Supreme Court ruling on privacy rights. An overriding theme among voters in midtown Anchorage was the amount of money spent to enforce marijuana laws on the books.

“If there’s an opportunity for fewer people to end up in jail, for marijuana, I see that as good,” said Ron Rozak after voting at Central Lutheran Church.

He acknowledged that marijuana interferes with young people’s development and thinking but is not sure it’s a gateway to cocaine or other drugs. He would rather see enforcement money spent on preschools or job training.

Willow Tebo and Scott Jenks voted yes.

“There are too many people that take up law enforcement’s valuable time. I’d rather they be chasing after violent criminals than bustin’ a grown man who’s smoking a doobie,” Tebo said.

“It’s pretty much legal here anyway,” Jenks said. “It’s just a waste of cop time and court time and it’s pretty much harmless, as far as I’m concerned.”

ANCHORAGE — Alaskans have voted to raise the minimum wage.

Ballot Measure Three sought to raise the minimum wage by $2 an hour.

The wage is currently set at $7.75. With the measure’s passage Tuesday, it will go up $2 over the next two years.

After that, the measure calls for it to be adjusted for inflation.

ANCHORAGE — Alaska voters have decided to restrict mining operations in the Bristol Bay region.

Ballot Measure Four sought to require legislative approval for a large-scale metallic sulfide mining operation in the Bristol Bay region.

The initiative states that, in addition to permits and other authorizations required by law, a final authorization would be needed from the Legislature for any large-scale mining operation within the watershed of the Bristol Bay Fisheries Reserve.

That authorization would come in the form of a law finding the operation would not constitute a danger to the region’s world-class salmon fishery.

The measure has implications for the massive proposed gold-and-copper project known as the Pebble Mine.

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