Supporters of marijuana legalization are hoping that Alaska will follow the example set by Colorado and Washington state.
Timothy Hinterberger told the Anchorage Daily News that his ballot initiative to legalize the recreational use of marijuana in Alaska is about halfway there. Hinterberger, who sponsored the ballot initiative, and his supporters need to gather about 30,000 valid signatures by December 1 to qualify for next year's primary ballot.
"In a free society, prohibition of popular substances is just bad public policy," Hinterberger said.
If approved by voters, the measure would allow those 21 and older to use and possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana for recreational use. Medical marijuana has been legal in the state since 1998.
The ballot measure is similar to two successful initiatives in Colorado and Washington state. Residents of both states voted to legalize marijuana in 2012.
The U.S. Department of Justice eventually responded to the successful legalization efforts by announcing it would not interfere with states that legalize marijuana for medical and recreational use. The announcement was intended to clear up discrepancies between state and federal marijuana policies, and has given marijuana reformers like Hinterberger hope.
"I think that shows that we are on the right track in thinking that things are really changing, both in federal policy as well in public sentiment. It eliminates one of the arguments you sometimes hear against an initiative like ours -- it doesn't matter what we do locally as a state because the feds will still step in," he explained to the Anchorage Daily News.
In a news release issued Monday, the Marijuana Policy Project said Alaska was one of ten states they expected to legalize marijuana by 2017. The group said it was supporting the petition drive in Alaska, and planned similar ballot initiatives in four other states.
“Most Americans are tired of seeing their tax dollars used to arrest and prosecute adults for using a substance that is objectively less harmful than alcohol,” said MPP executive director Rob Kampia. “Voters and state legislators are ready for change, and the federal government appears to be ready, as well.”