Legalization advocates hope to tax marijuana

Posted: Sunday, October 10, 2004

Pro-marijuana advocates are united in their effort to pass an initiative to legalize the drug, but there is uncertainty on how to regulate it if the initiative succeeds.

"There's a large spectrum of opinion on that," said Mariann Wizard, a legalization advocate from Texas who traveled to Alaska for the campaign. "We really don't have as clear a blueprint as I wish we had."

Howard Scaman of Juneau, a former substance abuse counselor who supports the initiative, said he hopes to persuade the Legislature to establish a system to issue personal use permits similar to a hunting or fishing license.

The permit would not allow growers to sell the drug, Scaman said.

Despite federal laws prohibiting marijuana possession, Scaman said the Legislature can pass a law creating a system that could generate new revenue for the state.

It might be a tough sell, though, he said.

"This is a pretty smart Legislature," he said. "They can figure out how to protect Alaskans' rights over federal law. We disagree with the feds on a whole lot of things."

If the Legislature fails to establish a regulatory structure for the substance, legalization advocates could petition the courts to do it, according to Ken Jacobus, a former lawyer for the Republican Party of Alaska who is working as legal counsel for the legalization group Yes on 2. Jacobus, however, acknowledged that there is no solid plan for regulation.

Al Anders, an organizer for the legalization effort, questioned whether marijuana users would sign up for a permit to grow the substance they are already growing illegally.

"You may not even sell any in Alaska because a person who is growing marijuana legally ... is not going to go out and buy one of these certificates," he said. "Nonetheless, it's a way the state could do it."

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