High Hopes For Marijuana In Alaska: The Last Frontier Could Become The Third US State To Legalize The Sale And Recreational Use of Marijuana

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Alaska marijuana
Jars of the marijuana strain called ''Beast Mode OG'', named after NFL player Marshawn ''Beast Mode'' Lynch of the Seattle Seahawks, are pictured in Nate Johnson's Queen Anne Cannabis Club in Seattle, Washington Jan. 28, 2014. Credit:

Under a proposal that qualified Wednesday for a statewide ballot, Alaska voters this summer will get to determine whether the Last Frontier will become the third state to legalize the sale of marijuana and its recreational use.

On Aug. 17, the marijuana initiative -- as well as a measure to increase the state's minimum wage by $2 an hour to $9.75 by January 2016 -- will be put on Alaska's primary election ballot.

A petition campaign for the marijuana initiative had gathered more than 36,000 signatures from registered voters, almost 6,000 more than legally required to qualify, Alaska Lieutenant Gov. Mead Treadwell formally certified.

Alaska would collect a tax of $50 per ounce of marijuana at the wholesale level under the measure.

The effort to make recreational marijuana use legal in Alaska -- one of 20 states that allow medical marijuana -- joins a wider effort in the U.S. to nix prohibition of pot, which continues to be classified as an illegal narcotic under federal law.

Passage of the marijuana initiative would permit adults 21 and older to possess up to 1 ounce (28 grams) of pot for their own use and to grow up to six cannabis plants for personal consumption, Reuters reported.

The initiative also paves the way for state-regulated commercial sales of marijuana utilizing a structure similar to the ones used in Colorado and Washington state. In 2012, voters in those states were the first to legalize recreational pot use. Pot sales there take after the system used by many U.S. states when it comes to alcohol sales.

Oregon activists are also gathering signatures to add a legalization measure to the 2014 ballot in that state.

"A bipartisan tidal wave of public support for regulating marijuana like alcohol in Alaska has pushed this issue onto the ballot, and we will be running an aggressive campaign designed to build momentum on that," campaign spokesman Taylor Bickford said.

Efforts at prohibition have failed, and the signatures collected by the pro-marijuana campaign underscore the desire for a more "sensible approach," Bickford said, according to Reuters.

"There is more public dialogue about marijuana taking place than ever before," Mason Tvert, spokesman for the Denver-based Marijuana Policy Project, said. "It won't be long before we see similar steps being taken in other states."

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