Alaskan Voters Opt To Legalize Marijuana

Voters approved ballot measure two last night. The measure makes legal the production, sale and use of marijuana for Alaskans over 21 years old. Washington DC and Oregon approved similar measures.

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Today, supporters laid out the plan for how the initiative will move forward. 90 days after the vote results are certified, the initiative becomes law and marijuana use will no longer be a crime. A nine month rule making process follows.

Campaign spokesman Taylor Bickford says this nine-month process will enable Alaskans on both sides of the legalization campaign an opportunity to weigh in on how the law should be implemented. Bickford says that will help Alaska avoid making mistakes that other states, like Washington, may have made when they wrote rules on the front end of their legalization push.

“We’ll have more flexibility in coming in to those decisions. Which I think ultimately is good because we’ll have the ability to learn from what’s happening in those states over the course of the next year as opposed to if we had all of that written in at the beginning of the initiative, there would have been less flexibility, you would have been stuck with some of those decisions,” Bickford said. “It also gives Alaskans from various stakeholder groups, the opportunity to engage in the process and to have a role in the process and I think that’s going to be incredibly important.”

Bruce Schulte with the Coalition for Responsible Cannabis Legislation said CRCL is a group of Alaskan business leaders from across Alaska who see the new law as the start of a legitimate industry.

“Just as the name would imply, the goal really is to work with the legislature and their control board and all of the other various groups on the rule making process, so at the end of the rule making period, we’ve got a set of rules that make sense, that address all the concerns that folks have and allow a legitimate marijuana industry to thrive in the state,” Schulte said.

Bickford says if the state does not set it’s own regulations within the nine-month window, regulatory authority would then be transferred to municipalities to implement the measure as they see fit.

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Lori Townsend is the News Director for the Alaska Public Radio Network. She got her start in broadcasting at the age of 11 as the park announcer of the fast pitch baseball games in Deer Park, Wisconsin. She has worked in print and broadcast journalism for more than 18 years. She was the co-founder and former Editor of Northern Aspects, a magazine featuring northern Wisconsin writers and artists. She worked for 7 years at tribal station WOJB on the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibway Reservation in Wisconsin, first as an on-air programmer and special projects producer and eventually News Director. In 1997 she co-hosted a continuing Saturday afternoon public affairs talk program on station KSTP in St. Paul, Minnesota. Radio brought her to Alaska where she worked as a broadcast trainer for Native fellowship students at Koahnic Broadcasting. Following her work there, she helped co-found the non-profit broadcast company Native Voice Communications with veteran Alaskan broadcasters Nellie Moore, D’Anne Hamilton, Len Anderson, Sharon McConnell and Veronica Iya. NVC created the award-winning Independent Native News as well as producing many other documentaries and productions. Townsend was NVC’s technical trainer and assistant producer of INN. Through her freelance work, she has produced news and feature stories nationally and internationally for Independent Native News, National Native News, NPR , Pacifica, Monitor Radio, Radio Netherlands and AIROS. Her print work and interviews have been published in News from Indian Country, Yakama Nation Review and other publications. Ms. Townsend has also worked as a broadcast trainer for the Native American Journalist’s Association and with NPR’s Doug Mitchell and as a freelance editor. Townsend is the recipient of numerous awards for her work from the Alaska Press Club, the Native American Journalists Association and a gold and a silver reel award from the National Federation of Community Broadcasters. Townsend was the recipient of a Fellowship at the Metcalf Institute for Marine and Environmental Reporting in Rhode Island as well as a fellowship at the Knight Digital Media Center in Berkeley. She is an avid reader, a rabid gardener and counts water skiing, training horses, diving and a welding certification among her past and current interests. ltownsend (at) alaskapublic (dot) org  |  907.550.8452 | About Lori