Treat, don't jail, marijuana addicts

Letter to the editor

Posted: Friday, January 23, 2004

I agree with state Attorney General Gregg Renkes that "It has been nearly 30 years since the Supreme Court last reviewed marijuana ... they (should) take a fresh look at this drug, based on the most recent information available." ("State appeals legal pot ruling," Jan. 21). But I disagree that Renkes' "fresh look" necessarily supports his position of state jail for marijuana possessors.

Why? Consider Peter v. State, a case decided by the court the same year as Ravin (the decision legalizing marijuana possession in the home). In Peter, the court held that public intoxication alone could not be criminalized. Peter described Alaska Statute 47.37.010, which reads, in part: "alcoholics and intoxicated persons should not be criminally prosecuted for their consumption of alcoholic beverages and that they should be afforded a continuum of treatment that can introduce them to, and help them learn, new life skills and social skills that would be useful to them in attaining and maintaining normal lives as productive members of society."

Any "fresh look" at marijuana would necessitate a conclusion that, like alcohol, marijuana is an addictive drug. People with drug addictions deserve treatment to learn the new life skills and social skills to help them become productive members of society. Jailing marijuana possessors, though it may work in the rare case, is not only cruel and ineffective at solving the common problems underlying the drug abuse, it is extremely burdensome financially. While our governor faces dipping into the Permanent Fund or cutting police services, teachers, health care and assistance to the elderly, it would behoove him to seek savings by broadening Alaska Statute 47.37.010 to provide humane assistance to those with marijuana addictions.

Aaron M. Clemens


Student in Washington, D.C.

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