Legislators Hear Hours of Disapproval Over Sweeping Changes to Marijuana Bill

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An outpouring of public disapproval greeted an unexpected overhaul to the Legislature’s bill dealing with legal marijuana in Alaska.

For more than two hours, public testimony to the Senate Finance committee criticized a redrafted version of Senate Bill 30. The measure creates a legal mechanism for turning Ballot Measure 2 into law. Earlier, legislators in the Judiciary committee stripped marijuana out of the controlled substances act to achieve that aim. But many callers were dismayed that the Finance committee reversed the provision.

“I would first ask that the Senate Finance committee restore the Judiciary committee’s version of this bill, which I thought was very deliberated and thought out,” said like Beth Carroll of Fritz Creek. “I’m opposed to this because it creates the underlying assumption of the intention of criminality by simply possessing more than a pound in the home.”

Section 4 of the new SB 30 draft includes a felony charge for possessing 16 or more ounces of marijuana, and leaves several misdemeanor charges on the books, as well.

“I’m opposed to this because it creates the underlying assumption of the intention of criminality by simply possessing more than a pound in the home,” Fitz added.

Section 31 restricts legal transport by drastically expanding what counts as an open container in a vehicle to include “a receptacle or marijuana accessory that contains any amount of marijuana and that is open or has a broken seal, and any amount of marijuana is removed.”

Many of those who called in from around the state identified as cancer survivors and medical patients who rely on marijuana products for treatment, and say the revised bill does not address their needs. Mike Glasgow of Homer told the committee he has been treating a rare form of arthritis for decades with medicinal marijuana.

“I’m a full-time carver, and I have manly looking hands–I am not deformed by arthritis, and I attribute it solely to the CBN and the oils from the cannabis.”

In total 36 Alaskans spoke, not a single one of them in favor of the revised bill. Multiple callers directed their frustrations at committee co-chair Pete Kelly a Republican from Fairbanks.

“Senator Kelly represents a district that voted 57% in favor of the initiative, yet sees fit to support legislation that would schedule marijuana alongside other powerful pharmaceutical drugs and impose harsh penalties for marijuana violations,” said Brandon Emmett of Fairbanks, expressing his disappointment.

The Senate Finance Committee will hold another hearing on Thursday March 12th at 1:30pm.