Just how did Alaska end up being one of the few states in America to legalize the use of recreational marijuana? Well, it’s been a long and winding road filled with some steps taken forward and a few steps taken back.
Fortunately, it seems like it will only be forward from here on out. Will the rest of the nation follow The Last Frontier into the next frontier of total marijuana legalization? Time will tell, but for now, let’s take a closer look at Alaska’s marijuana laws.
Marijuana for Medical Use
An application for a medical marijuana card must be made to the Health Analytics & Vital Records section of the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services. There are application forms for patients, primary caregivers, and alternate caregivers. The following steps must be taken in order to request a medical marijuana card.
- The application form must be filled out with the applicant’s name, mailing address, physical address, date of birth, Alaska Driver’s License, or Alaska Identification Number.
- It must also include the name, address, and phone number of the patient’s doctor.
- If applicable, the name and address of the patient’s caregiver must also be included.
- The applicant’s signature must also be included in the form.
- The original (not a photocopy) physician’s statement. This statement says that the applicant has been diagnosed with a debilitating medical condition and that the doctor has concluded that the applicant would benefit from the use of medical marijuana.
- An application fee of $25 must be included. The fee is $20 if the applicant is requesting a renewal of their current card. The check must be made out to the Health Analytics and Vital Records (formerly the Alaska Bureau of Vital Statistics).
In the case of a minor, their parent or legal guardian must reside in Alaska and provide an original statement (no photocopies) stating that they consent to the use of medical marijuana in the minor’s treatment.
Marijuana for Recreational Use
Alaska has decriminalized, legalized, and recriminalized marijuana over the years. It was first decriminalized and then legalized in 1975 pursuant to the court case, Ravin v State. In 1990, weed was recriminalized, only to be once again decriminalized 13 years later because of the case of David Noy.
This didn’t last. In 2006, the Alaska Legislature passed a bill prohibiting the use and possession of even small quantities of marijuana—thus, recriminalizing its use. The reasoning for this bill was that weed was more potent and its use more widespread than in 1975 when the bill decriminalizing its use was originally passed. This changed once again in 2014 when Alaska Measure 2 was passed, described as “an Act to tax and regulate the production, sale, and use of marijuana” for adults over the age of 21.
Once again marijuana is legal in Alaska. The new law allows anyone 21 and older to possess up to an ounce of marijuana and six plants. Considering the complicated history of the state’s marijuana laws, many Alaskans were understandably a little confused by the law at first. Four years after the vote, the situation is much clearer and it looks like this time legalization is here to stay.
Note that the price of weed is much higher in Alaska than anywhere else in America, for that reason, it should be used as efficiently as possible. No matter whether it is used in a joint or a vaporizer, a high quality herb grinder will make even a little bit of weed go a long way.
Rules and Regulations
- You must be 21 or older to use or possess marijuana. Anyone fitting that criteria is allowed to grow up to six marijuana plants, but only three of them can be flowering at any given time.
- You cannot use marijuana in public locations such as parks, businesses, movie theatres, et cetera.
- Since marijuana is still illegal at the federal level, the use of it is prohibited on federal land like national parks and national forests.
- You can use marijuana on private property. Make sure to check with the local laws, homeowners association, and landlord to see if marijuana use is permitted on that property.
- Marijuana use is prohibited while operating any kind of vehicle.
- Anyone caught driving while high is subject to the same penalties as anyone caught driving drunk.
- You cannot leave Alaska with any marijuana products in your possession.
Alaska Shows the Way Forward
Despite the complex history of decriminalization and re-criminalization, Alaska has shown that they are among the most progressive states when it comes to marijuana laws. They have shown that decriminalizing and legalizing something that most people use responsibly, whether in a joint or a dry herb vaporizer, is a smart, logical choice with few drawbacks.
The legalization of marijuana has also made Alaska a destination for tourists for reasons other than the state’s beautiful landscapes. Hopefully, Alaska will serve as an example to other states that are skittish about legalization.