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Marijuana supporters make initiative push

Posted: November 14, 2013 - 1:11am
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Norton Arbelaez, right, the owner of River Rock marijuana dispensary, gives a tour of one of his grow rooms to Mexican lawmaker Fernando Belaunzaran, left, and Terry Nelson, second from left, a retired U.S. Federal agent who supports legalizing drugs, and who is with the organization Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, in Denver, Wednesday Oct. 23, 2013. Out-of-state activists, and several foreign lawmakers pushing for drug law reforms at home, took a close up look the evolving legal marijuana industry in Colorado Wednesday. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)  Brennan Linsley
Brennan Linsley
Norton Arbelaez, right, the owner of River Rock marijuana dispensary, gives a tour of one of his grow rooms to Mexican lawmaker Fernando Belaunzaran, left, and Terry Nelson, second from left, a retired U.S. Federal agent who supports legalizing drugs, and who is with the organization Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, in Denver, Wednesday Oct. 23, 2013. Out-of-state activists, and several foreign lawmakers pushing for drug law reforms at home, took a close up look the evolving legal marijuana industry in Colorado Wednesday. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

JUNEAU — The organizers of a citizen’s petition to legalize recreational use of marijuana in Alaska are expressing a sense of urgency in their signature-gathering effort.

An email appeal went out last week that was headlined “Save the initiative — volunteer NOW!” It was signed by Tim Hinterberger, one of the sponsors of the proposed initiative, though he said it was more an effort to “light a fire under our volunteers” than a statement of any worry about the fate of the proposal.

“We do need to get a lot of signatures in yet, sooner rather than later,” he said.

Organizers set a target of Dec. 1 to submit 45,000 signatures, he said, well over the required 30,169 signatures. Qualified signatures must come from at least 7 percent of voters in at least 30 House districts. The latest report Hinterberger had from the field estimated about 33,000 signatures had been gathered so far, but he said he isn’t comfortable stopping there.

“We still need more total signatures yet,” he said, “but we have time.”

Officially, the campaign has until June to gather the necessary signatures. But if it wants the issue on next year’s ballot — which the campaign is aiming for — it must submit them by the start of the next legislative session, Jan. 21.

The proposal would make it legal for those 21 and older to use and possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana, though not in public. It also would set out provisions for legal grow operations and establish an excise tax.

Hinterberger said there has been “pretty constant” support for the effort. He blamed logistics for the signature-gathering effort getting off to a slower start but said the campaign was now getting more petition booklets out to volunteers.

The campaign has been getting support from the Marijuana Policy Project, which bills itself as the nation’s largest marijuana policy organization.

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