Lawmakers want bill to decriminalize marijuana fast tracked

  • By Molly Dischner
  • Saturday, January 24, 2015 9:08pm
  • News

JUNEAU, Alaska — Alaska lawmakers hope to fast track a bill that would decriminalize marijuana, but legalization advocates disagree with the way legislators propose going about it.

The Senate Judiciary Committee introduced a bill Friday that would decriminalize marijuana in certain situations and create new laws regarding the drug.

Advocates, however, question the way that the bill proposes accomplishing that. It would repeal the section of a voter initiative passed in November that permits personal use, replacing it with language that provides a defense in court if someone is prosecuted for possession.

In a statement, Tim Hinterberger from the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, said the proposed change is not in line with what voters approved.

“This is a lesser protection than what the voters have mandated, and the state has previously used this tactic to thwart the will of the voters in the case of medical marijuana, which passed by citizen initiative in 1998,” Hinterberger wrote. “We are not suggesting that is the intent of this bill, but it is an issue proponents are particularly sensitive to given the history of marijuana policy in Alaska.”

Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Lesil McGuire, R-Anchorage, said she expected the defense provision to be a subject of “healthy debate” during committee hearings. She said she’s open to other language, noting that marijuana is still illegal in more situations than it is legal.

“The philosophy is, marijuana is a controlled substance and it remains a controlled substance,” she said.

Hearings on the bill are expected to begin Monday at a joint meeting of the House and Senate Judiciary committees. The bill also has been referred to Senate Finance Committee, from which it would have to advance before being scheduled for a floor vote.

McGuire said she wants the bill to pass before Feb. 24, when recreational marijuana use is set to become legal under the initiative.

The bill also would create penalties for providing marijuana to minors, and it would add marijuana to the state’s existing open container laws, making it illegal to drive with an “open marijuana container.”

McGuire said the Judiciary Committee is planning another bill to create a special marijuana control board.

More in News

Sockeye salmon. (Photo via Alaska Department of Fish and Game)
Fish and Game seeks comment on 2022 sport fish stocking plan

The Sport Fish Division plans to release approximately 7 million fish into the Alaska water systems over the next five years.

A map shows which parts of the Chugach National Forest are open to motorized winter recreation use for the 2021-2022 season. (Map courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service)
Parts of Chugach National Forest open to snowmachine use

The 2021-2022 winter motorized season will run through April 30.

Kenai Police Department Chief David Ross explains the purpose of a grant to be used for new radios during a meeting of the Kenai City Council on Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021 in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai Police to update radios using grant money

The department received almost $260,000 through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Democratic Party candidate for governor Les Gara attends a Zoom meeting with Homer residents on Nov. 18, 2021, from his Anchorage, Alaska, home. (Screen capture)
Gara makes election pitch to Homer

Democratic Party candidate for governor Gara visits virtually.

A man missing for more than 40 years was identified by the Alaska Bureau of Investigation as a Chugiak resident who was last seen in 1979. The man’s body was discovered on an island near Anchorage in 1989. (Courtesy photo/Alaska Department of Public Safety)
Body found in 1980s ID’d through DNA analysis

The body, found in 1989, had been unidentified until now.

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
COVID continues decline; 1 new death

The state had an estimated rolling average of 253.3 cases per 100,000 people over the past seven days.

U.S. Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham addresses state and Alaska Native leaders Friday, Jan. 17, 2020, in Anchorage, Alaska. Dillingham will travel to Toksook Bay, on an island just off Alaska’s western coast, for the first count on Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020. (AP Photo/Mark Thiessen)
Census reports minimal state population growth

The Kenai Peninsula Borough’s population grew by about 3,400 people between the 2010 and 2020 census.

The old Homer intermediate school building, showing the Homer Boys & Girls Club and gym on the south side of the building at the corner of the Sterling Highway and Pioneer Avenue.
The old Homer intermediate school building on the corner of the Sterling Highway and Pioneer Avenue, as seen in October 2010. It’s now known as the Homer Educational and Recreational Complex, or HERC. (Homer News file photo)
Homer awards contract to study use of rec complex site

The goal is to help the city understand the maximum use of that property.

Genna Stormer gives Santa a hug during Christmas Comes to Nikiski at the Nikiski Community Recreation Center on Dec. 14, 2019. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)
December brings the holiday cheer

Groups across the peninsula get into the spirit of the season with public events.

Most Read