If Alaskans vote to legalize recreational marijuana use in the November election, rapper Snoop Dogg says he’ll perform a “wellness retreat concert” there. Anchorage station KTUU reported that Snoop, known for his predilection for pot, made the announcement in a recent webcast during an interview with former TV reporter Charlo Greene, owner of the Alaska Cannabis Club, who quit on live television and announced she would devote herself full-time to getting marijuana legalized in the state.
What Snoop Dogg may not know -- and he wouldn’t be alone -- is that under a little-known or understood 39-year-old court ruling, pot is already legal in Alaska -- kind of.
In 1975, the Alaska Supreme Court ruled in Ravin v. State the right to privacy guaranteed by the state constitution made it legal to possess, cultivate and consume small amounts of marijuana in one’s home, making Alaska the first and only state to recognize a constitutional right privacy right protecting marijuana use and possession in small amounts, University of Alaska law professor Jason Brandeis said in a comprehensive history of Alaska marijuana law.
Despite attempts to overturn Ravin v. State, the case is cited again and again in small possession cases. Although the state can still regulate and prohibit most types of marijuana activity -- Ravin doesn’t protect possession or use of marijuana in public, marijuana activity involving minors or possession in any amounts if selling is an intent -- Ravin, combined with Alaska’s approval of medical marijuana use in 1998, makes the legality of marijuana in Alaska situational and often contradictory. Because of a number of ballot and legislative challenges to the law, tokers still risk prosecution under existing state and federal statutes.
In a report on the legalization debate, the Washington Post said Alaska teens and young adults have a 30 percent higher marijuana use rate compared with that age group in other states, and adults age 26 and older are more than twice as likely as those in their age group in other states to regularly spark up. In metrics regarding the social outcomes of a state with so many pot connoisseurs, Alaska is 26th among states on the number of people who get bachelor’s degrees, its poverty rates are lower than the national average, and its highway fatality rate is lower than the U.S. average.
If there’s one thing people on both sides of the pot debate can agree on, it’s that the history of marijuana law is so complicated, many Alaskans aren’t even sure what it is.
"It all has been very confusing for people,” Kevin Sabet, co-founder of the anti-legalization group Project SAM, told the Washington Times. And in a public statement by the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in Alaska, supporters agree the laws "have become needlessly confusing and inconsistently enforced.”
If Ballot Measure 2 is approved by voters, it would allow people age 21 and older to possess as much as an ounce of marijuana and as many as six plants. The manufacture, sale and possession of marijuana paraphernalia also would be legal at the state level. However, federal marijuana laws would still be in place.
It remains to be seen whether 420 fans will have to stay in their homes to toke after November, or whether they’ll be at Snoop Dogg’s concert lighting up -- less than an ounce, of course.