State and local briefly

Posted: Thursday, February 03, 2000

Measure to change initiatives on move

JUNEAU - The Senate Judiciary Committee voted to advance a proposed constitutional amendment requiring initiative sponsors to gather signatures from three-fourths of the state's legislative districts on Wednesday.

After listening to mostly negative testimony on the measure, the committee voted 3-1 to send it to the Senate Finance Committee. Committee members expressed doubts about some of its impacts and the chance of its passage.

House Joint Resolution 7, sponsored by Rep. Bill Williams, a Saxman Republican, requires initiative sponsors to collect signatures equal to at least 10 percent of the number of registered voters who participated in the preceding general election, as the Alaska Constitution now requires. Williams' measure also requires signatures to be gathered in at least 30 of the state's 40 election districts.

Williams pushed the proposal through the House last year with the argument that it would get rural people involved in the initiative process.

Opponents said legislators should be making the process easier, not harder, for people putting measures on the ballot. ``I'm not sure why the Legislature is so afraid of letting the people vote,'' said James Crary, a sponsor of an initiative to increase alcoholic beverage taxes.

Voters to decide on legalizing pot

JUNEAU - An initiative to legalize marijuana and other hemp products has been certified for the November ballot, Lt. Gov. Fran Ulmer said Wednesday.

The state Division of Elections validated 24,474 petition signatures as coming from registered voters. ``They had more than they needed,'' said Virginia Breeze, a spokeswoman for the division.

Len Karpinski, a sponsor of the marijuana initiative, said last month that his group collected 40,865 signatures. Karpinski, state chairman of the Libertarian Party, said the measure would make possession of hemp legal under state law. Marijuana would be regulated as alcoholic beverages are regulated now.

Alaskans convicted of past marijuana crimes would receive amnesty and could get back seized property. The initiative also would allow the use of hemp for clothing, medicine and other uses.

However, the initiative would not change federal laws against marijuana cultivation and possession.

Two years ago, Alaska voters legalized limited marijuana possession and use for a short list of medical conditions. Before it was criminalized by a 1990 voter-passed initiative, possession of small amounts of pot was legal in Alaska.

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