As parents and participants in public policy issues affecting Alaska families, we appreciate this opportunity to express our views on the so-called "hemp" initiative on this November's ballot.
Initiative Number 5 is poorly crafted and poses a danger to our public health and safety. In short, we think it's a bad idea.
The initiative legalizes marijuana use for all Alaskans, children and adults. It regulates marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol, opening the door to buying clubs. It requires those incarcerated for previous marijuana-related crimes to be released from prison with restitution for fines paid and time served. And it prohibits state assistance in enforcing federal marijuana laws.
Until the Legislature enacts a law specifically prohibiting marijuana use by minors, passage of this initiative would legalize use by minors as well as adults. Most Alaskans would agree that alone is reason to oppose this measure.
By regulating marijuana in the same manner as alcohol, the state would have to license marijuana farms, similar to current brewery licenses, and retail marijuana outlets, similar to liquor stores. This would mirror California's scarred history of marijuana buying clubs. Alaskans don't want to provide the next haven for legal drug purchases.
Public safety would be endangered under this initiative when it comes to regulating the offense of driving under the influence of marijuana. There is no readily available test to determine the level of active marijuana in a person's system, nor a method to administer such a test, similar to a breathalyzer for alcohol.
For the state to apply this initiative, it would require that convicts be released, have their records expunged, and receive reimbursement for their time served and fines paid. This is bad public policy and expensive. The state also would immediately lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal drug prevention grants, and likely jeopardize millions more.
Another implied purpose of this initiative is to legalize possession of industrial hemp - the fiber from the marijuana plant used to make rope, clothing and other industrial products. That's already legal in Alaska. But this initiative, by specifying legalization of industrial hemp, gives the false appearance that such possession is currently illegal.
It is important all Alaskans understand the effects of this initiative before voting on it. Once understood, it will be obvious this proposed law is foolish and dangerous for our state and its citizens.
Susan M. Knowles