Alaska has taken another step towards becoming the next state to legalize marijuana. The Alaska Division of Elections has already qualified 32,863 signatures for an initiative to legalize, tax and regulate marijuana. It only needed 30,169 valid signatures to make the ballot. This nearly guarantees the initiative will go before the voters on this years August 19th primary ballot.
The measure is closely modeled after the Amendment 64 in Colorado. It would legalize possession of up to an ounce of marijuana and limit home growing for adults age 21 and over. The state’s Alcohol Control Board would also set up a regulated system for the commercial growth and sale of marijuana. Local communities would have the option to ban marijuana businesses if they wanted.
Once the measure officially makes the ballot polling shows it is likely to be approved by the voters. A new Public Policy Polling survey found 55 percent of Alaskan voters support legalizing marijuana for recreational use and regulating it like alcohol. Only 39 percent oppose legalization.
The one potential problem for the initiative might be turnout. The Republican Senate primary is shaping up to be by far the most competitive race on the August 19th ballot. If this causes turnout to skew heavily Republican that could hurt the initiative since the PPP poll found a majority of Alaska Republicans oppose legalization. The initiative needs strong turnout among young voters but they aren’t the most inclined to vote in primary elections during non-presidential years.
Jon Walker is the author of After Legalization: Understanding the future of marijuana policy
Photo by Brett Levin Photography under Creative Commons license