Alaska pot supporters make deal with opponents

  • By Mark Thiessen
  • Wednesday, April 16, 2014 11:25pm
  • News

ANCHORAGE — The group behind a ballot measure to legalize the recreational use of marijuana in Alaska said Wednesday it would gladly contribute funds to their opponents — if they prove pot is more dangerous than alcohol.

The challenge was made by the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol and involves both a new local opposition group and a national campaign that seeks to keep pot illegal.

Marijuana opponents, meanwhile, have dismissed the offer as a “distraction from a serious issue” and called on pot supporters to donate the money to groups that fight substance abuse.

Alaska voters will decide during the Aug. 19 primary whether the state should become the third, behind Colorado and Washington, to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. Proponents turned in more than 46,000 signatures — about 30,000 were needed — to get the issue on the ballot.

Chris Rempert, the political director of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, says a person is much more likely to overdose on alcohol than marijuana, long-term alcohol consumption causes more deaths than chronic marijuana use and violent crimes are committed by drunken people far more often than by people who are high.

He says that if his opponents could scientifically disprove those three contentions then his group would gladly contribute just over $9,000 to their cause.

The money, Rempert said, represents the amount the leader of a national anti-marijuana group collected in campaign donations from alcohol lobbyists during his time in Congress.

Messages from The Associated Press to a spokesman for former U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy, a Rhode Island Democrat, weren’t immediately returned Wednesday.

Kennedy’s group, Project SAM, has communicated with an Alaska opposition group that formed this week, calling itself “Big Marijuana Big Mistake. Vote No On 2.”

Pot supporters are criticizing the “No On 2” campaign along the same lines as the national group, saying one of the opposition leaders is part owner of an Anchorage restaurant that sells beer.

“It is troubling that the effort to keep marijuana illegal for Alaskan adults is being led by individuals who have personally benefited from the promotion of alcohol,” said Tim Hinterberger, one of the initiative sponsors.

Tim Woolston, part owner of Fat Ptarmigan and deputy treasurer for the opposition group, said in an email to the AP, “We expect that there will be personal attacks, but this is just a distraction from a serious issue.”

He said that as Alaska residents “learn more they will see the negative impacts this issue will have on our state.”

Another of the “No On 2” deputy treasurers, Deborah Williams, former head of the Alaska Democratic Party, said she hopes the pot supporters donate the money “to organizations in Alaska who are dealing with substance abuse and prevention.”

“We believe that the costs associated with this initiative far outweigh the benefits,” she said, noting that marijuana opposition is bipartisan.

Williams also said that her group reached out to Project SAM for information, and hasn’t received any money from the group.

A Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol spokesman said in an email to the AP that his group has received financial support from a national pro-marijuana group, the Marijuana Policy Project. As of late last month, the figure was about $130,000.

“The federal government is spending billions of dollars a year enforcing the failed policies (of) marijuana prohibition. If a nonprofit organization and its members around the country want to help Alaskans fight back, our campaign welcomes their support,” Taylor Bickford said.

More in News

Kenai City Manager Paul Ostrander speaks at a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Kenai Municipal Airport on Friday, Aug. 6, 2021 in Kenai, Alaska. A kiosk that will offer educational programming and interpretive products about the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge is coming to the airport. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsua Clarion)
Wildlife refuge kiosk coming to airport

Kenai National Wildlife Refuge stickers, T-shirts, magnets, travel stamps and enamel pins will be available.

This illustration provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in January 2020 shows the 2019 Novel Coronavirus. (CDC)
5 more COVID deaths reported

The total nationwide fatalities surpass population of Alaska.

Velda Geller fills goodie bags at the Kenai Senior Center on Friday, Oct. 22, 2021 for next weekend’s drive-through trick-or-treat event. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
‘This has been a lifesaver’

Seniors seek human connection as pandemic continues.

Kenai City Hall on Feb. 20, 2020, in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)
‘A very slippery slope that we need to be careful of’

Approval of library grant postponed after Kenai council requests to preview book purchases

This undated photo released by the Alaska State Department of Public Safety shows Robin Pelkey just before her 18th birthday. The remains of a woman known for 37 years only as Horseshoe Harriet, one of 17 victims of a notorious Alaska serial killer, have been identified through DNA profiling as Robin Pelkey, authorities said Friday, Oct. 22, 2021. (Alaska State Department of Public Safety via AP)
DNA match IDs serial killer’s victim after 37 years

Robin Pelkey was 19 and living on the streets of Anchorage when she was killed by Robert Hansen in the early 1980s, investigators said.

A moose is photographed in Kalifornsky, Alaska, in July 2020. (Peninsula Clarion file)
Illegal moose harvest down from past 5 years

The large majority of moose this year were harvested from North and South Kasilof River areas.

Renee Behymer and Katelyn Behymer (right) of Anchorage win this week’s vaccine lottery college scholarship sweepstakes. (Photo provided)
Dillingham and Anchorage residents win 6th vaccine lottery

“Get it done,” one winner said. “Protect us all, protect our elders and our grandchildren.”

Most Read