AG may suspend medical marijuana registration in Alaska

Posted: Tuesday, June 07, 2005

The state attorney general's office says it may suspend Alaska's medical marijuana registration list in response to the U.S. Supreme Court decision Monday allowing the federal government to override state laws allowing medical marijuana.

Alaska is one of 10 states where marijuana use is legal with a doctor's prescription.

Attorney General David Marquez said the ruling in the California case may have significant implications for Alaska's laws.

"Alaska's medicinal use law is very similar to the law in California," Marquez said in the statement. "Today's decision did not strike down the California law but rather reaffirmed the authority of the federal government to regulate marijuana. The question we must analyze is whether and how the state medicinal use laws can continue to operate in light of this ruling."

Department of Law spokesman Mark Morones said the attorney general's office is considering suspending the registration process in Alaska, where patients with a prescription for marijuana can be put on a list to receive a card showing they are entitled to use the drug.

The Alaska Bureau of Vital Statistics says 198 people are currently on the list.

Exactly half of the users live in the Kenai Peninsula Borough, according to the bureau. Twelve users live in the Fairbanks North-Star Borough, 33 live in Anchorage and 17 in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough. Other boroughs and cities have eight or fewer registered users.

Morones said he is not sure how the Law Department would pursue ending the registration process or whether it can be done without legislative action.

Dr. Dick Mandsager, director of the state Division of Public Health, said once patients are put on the list and receive a registration card, they are usually on their own in finding the drug.

"You've always been on your own," Mandsager said. "People that have a prescription have always understood this difficulty."

Deborah Smith, first assistant U.S. attorney in Anchorage, said the decision doesn't represent a change for federal prosecutors.

"It's illegal under federal law," she said. "It's always been illegal under federal law."

ACLU of Alaska Executive Director Michael Macleod-Ball said he was not surprised that the ruling favored federal authority over the state's. But he said he does not believe it invalidates Alaska's medical marijuana laws.

"You're not going to see Alaska resources used to enforce federal law," he said.

He said federal law enforcement officials could use the state list to identify registered users.

"Are they going to use their resources to chase down medical marijuana users or for more legitimate purposes?" Macleod-Ball said.



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