The Bethel Legislative Office was packed Monday afternoon as Alaska Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell lead a hearing on Ballot Measure 2, a marijuana initiative that will appear on the November 4 ballot.
Elder Elizabeth Lake came from Akiak by boat to testify. She said she was concerned that legalizing marijuana could create more social problems in a region that already struggles with high rates of issues associated with substance abuse.
“Those people who smoke marijuana don’t work, they’re unemployed. If they have a craving for marijuana they break into business so they can smoke and they end up in jail.”
The initiative would legalize, tax and regulate recreational use of marijuana in Alaska for those 21 years and older. Charlene Egbe, also known as reporter Charlo Green now famous for quitting on air at Anchorage TV station KTVA, to campaign for Ballot Measure 2, said she began using marijuana to stop abusing alcohol.
“That allowed me to curb my drinking, big time,” the ex-TV anchor says. “I actually stopped for the first time since I started when I was 15-16 years old. Six years later, hard-core alcoholic. I stopped drinking because I started smoking weed. And not only that, but my transcripts from college will show that I went from failing out of the entire semester to staying on the dean’s list.”
Green flew in from Anchorage to attend the hearing in person. Ana Hoffman, the president and CEO of the Bethel Native Corporation, testified against the initiative, saying she believes that marijuana can be addictive.
“I’ve seen people of my community of Bethel, I’ve seen people in area villages and people in my own family prioritize marijuana over other basic needs. I have been in homes equipped with indoor plumbing but these home s do not receive water or sewer services. The children in these homes are not able to bathe or flush the toilet because that is not important. What is important in these homes is that the parents in these homes are never without marijuana.”
There were 14 testimonies at the Bethel hearing. No one from Bethel testified in favor of Ballot Measure 2. The final hearing is scheduled for Wednesday in Fairbanks.