Marijuana ballot initiative sees little spending

  • Monday, March 10, 2014 9:33pm
  • News

FAIRBANKS — A ballot measure that would make sales of marijuana legal under Alaska state law has seen little early campaign spending by advocates and none by opponents.

The measure was placed on the Aug. 19 primary ballot by initiative and would follow Colorado and Washington in making marijuana regulation more like alcohol regulation, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported. Spending on the referendum on Alaska’s oil tax structure has reached more than $4 million this year. The marijuana initiative has attracted about $132,000 in early spending by the Washington, D.C.-based Marijuana Policy Project. Most of the money was devoted to the signature drive that placed the measure on the ballot and hiring a public relations firm. Taylor Bickford of Strategies 360, the Seattle-based public relations firm, said the “yes” campaign will focus on getting voters to the polls because primaries historically have low turnout.

Marijuana legalization failed in 2000 and 2004, but advocates are riding a tail wind of public opinion change, Bickford said.

“The landscape is much different than it was 10 years ago when this issue was being discussed. Public opinion has shifted so rapidly,” he said. “The general lack of opposition (to the initiative) is a reflection of public opinion.”

Smart Approaches to Marijuana, headed by former U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I., opposes the initiative.

The group has listed no campaign spending. Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians, which has membership in southeast Alaska, announced last week it would work with Kennedy’s group to fight legalization in Alaska and Oregon.

The ballot measure would continue prohibitions on smoking in public and possession by people under 21. Pot could be sold at state-licensed stores.

State Sen. John Coghill, R-North Pole, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, opposes the measure. More people will use marijuana if laws banning it are reversed, he said.

“Some people are going to compare it to alcohol. Alcohol is a problem. I just don’t want to add a problem,” Coghill said. “I’ve spent the last couple of years holding people accountable who misuse alcohol. We’re going to end up with the same problem with the misuse of marijuana.” State Rep. David Guttenberg, D-Fairbanks, supports the measure.

The state has been unable to stop the illegal drug trade, he said, and he considers marijuana less harmful than alcohol.

“We have more than 50 years of failed drug policy. When I was a kid, you could buy drugs in the schoolyard; today they still can,” he said. “We have not had a policy that makes sense.”

The Alaska Legislature likely will not take a side in the debate this year, Guttenberg said. Legislators generally avoid the subject, he said.

More in News

Mary Peltola responds to a question during a forum at the Kenai Visitor Center on Aug. 3, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. With less than two weeks to go before Alaska’s Aug. 16 election, the three candidates seeking to temporarily replace Congressman Don Young in Alaska’s U.S. House seat have made clear their positions on abortion. (Peninsula Clarion/Jake Dye)
Here’s where Alaska’s U.S. House candidates stand on access to abortion

Palin and Begich oppose congressional efforts to guarantee abortion rights, Peltola supports abortion access

The Sterling Highway crosses the Kenai River near the Russian River Campground on March 15, 2020, near Cooper Landing, Alaska. (Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Russian River Campground to be closed until June 2023 beginning next week

Resurfacing and reinforcement work will occur along about 1 mile of the Russian River Campground Road

Alaska State Troopers logo.
Hikers rescued near Cooper Landing

They became trapped in a steep ravine after taking a canoe over Kenai Lake and climbing a mountain, troopers say

Vials of empty monkeypox vaccines sit at a table at Seattle Central College in Seattle, Saturday, Aug. 6, 2022. (Daniel Kim/The Seattle Times via AP)
State announces two-tiered system for monkeypox vaccine

Due to low availability, the monkeypox vaccine is administered only in response to potential exposure

Rep. Ben Carpenter, R-Nikiski, leads an informational town hall about ranked choice voting inside the Betty J. Glick Assembly Chambers on Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Carpenter holds forum on ranked choice voting

Don’t “overthink it,” representative says

Raymond Bradbury preserves his salmon while dipnetting in the mouth of the Kenai River on Saturday, July 10, 2021. (Camille Botello / Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai River dipnetting closed; Kasilof to close Sunday

The Kasilof River dipnet fishery is reportedly slow, but fish are being caught

Silver salmon hang in the Seward Boat Harbor during the 2018 Seward Silver Salmon Derby. (Photo courtesy of Seward Chamber of Commerce)
Seward Silver Salmon derby runs Aug. 13-21

Last year’s derby featured 1,800 contestants competing across eight days

Rayna Reynolds tends to her cow at the 4-H Agriculture Expo in Soldotna, Alaska on Aug. 5, 2022. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Animals take the stage at 4-H expo

Contestants were judged on the quality of the animal or showmanship of the handler

Emily Matthews and Andy Kowalczyk pose outside the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies headquarters on Friday, July 29, 2022, in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Charlie Menke/Homer News)
AmeriCorps volunteers aid Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies

The 10-month commitment pushed them outside of comfort zones

Most Read