Marijuana bill passes on reconsideration vote

Attempt to separate pot from methampethamine legislation fails in Senate

Posted: Thursday, January 26, 2006

An effort to strip the marijuana provisions from a bill that also aims to crack down on the manufacture of methamphetamine failed in the Senate Wednesday.

The omnibus measure passed by a vote of 18-to-2 and now heads for the House floor for concurrence. The bill originally passed the Senate last Thursday, but was held over for a reconsideration vote called by Sen. Tom Wagoner, R-Kenai.

A 1975 Alaska Supreme Court ruling that allows the possession of up to 4 ounces of marijuana for home recreational use set a court precedent that Gov. Frank Murkowski is seeking to overturn with his marijuana bill.

The measure would make possession of less than 4 ounces of marijuana a misdemeanor. Possession of more than 4 ounces would be a felony.

Current law makes it a misdemeanor to possess up to a half-pound of marijuana.

The Senate Finance Committee merged the two drug bills earlier this session.

Wagoner on Wednesday tried to remove the marijuana provision with an amendment. He said recreational pot smoking is probably bad for people, but so is tobacco and alcohol use.

"I'm not sure that we are here to judge what people do and what they can take part in. That is not our job," he said.

But proponents of the measure counter that today's drug is far more potent and a greater danger to public safety than when the high court ruled.

They say 4 ounces could be used for the sale and commercialization of the product.

Sen. Lyda Green, R-Wasilla, said the value of marijuana is now worth its weight in gold.

The bill also would restrict the sale of a popular decongestant, Sudafed, which is used in the manufacture of methamphetamine.

It would also list certain anabolic steroids as controlled substances.

The bill is House Bill 149.

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