Pubdate: Mon, 13 Jan 2014
Source: Alaska Dispatch (AK)
Copyright: 2014 Alaska Dispatch
Author: Laurel Andrews


Opposition to the marijuana legalization initiative in Alaska will 
ramp up in coming months.

Kevin Sabet, co-founder of Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM), said 
Monday that the organization was approached by a "handful of leaders" 
in Alaska's medical and scientific communities expressing their 
concern over the legalization of marijuana in Alaska.

Alaska marijuana legalization initiative turns in 45,000 signatures 
Legal marijuana in Colorado: Was rollout a success? "This is all 
homegrown," Sabet said. He declined to name the Alaskans who 
contacted his group, but said that they would be available in coming months.

SAM describes itself as a project of the Policy Solutions Lab, a 
consulting firm led by Sabet. It opposes incarceration of marijuana 
users and legalization of marijuana, a move that Sabet said would 
"normalize" marijuana smoking for minors, negatively affect working 
environments, bring stoned drivers to the roadways, and create 
onerous government regulations.

The group is governed by a board of directors who live in the Lower 
48, from Colorado to Massachusetts, including former congressional 
delegate from Rhode Island Patrick Kennedy, and Daily Beast columnist 
David Frum. The organization says it has affiliates in 19 states, 
including Alaska. Sabet said the organization launched a year ago 
when Kennedy joined as co-founder and is all-volunteer. The first 
blog post on SAM's website was made in November 2012.

Opposition is starting up in response to an initiative to legalize 
marijuana being evaluated for certification to be placed on Alaska's 
Aug. 19 ballot. Last week, the Alaska Campaign to Regulate Marijuana 
handed over more than 45,000 signatures in support of a petition to 
tax and regulate recreational marijuana use in the state. If 
certified, the initiative will be brought before primary election voters.

"It's pretty clear to most Alaskans that prohibition has failed," 
initiative supporter Tim Hinterberger said last week.

The eight-page act was drafted by a team from Alaska and Colorado 
that includes several attorneys, Hinterberger said, with the language 
based largely on Colorado's law. In January, Colorado became the 
first state to fully legalize marijuana. Washington state is slated 
to begin allowing legal recreational marijuana sales in June.

Sabet said that SAM was not active in opposing either the Colorado or 
Washington marijuana initiatives. "We may be coming out of the gate 
late," he said.

Alaska's act would restrict and regulate the sale of marijuana to 
adults aged 21 years or older. Marijuana would be taxed at $50 per 
ounce. Proponents say that the act would control sales, bring revenue 
to the state, and decrease black-market sales of a drug they say is 
less harmful than alcohol.

Sabet called the proposed regulations a "facade. They're not really 
going to be regulating anything. There's still going to be an 
underground market," Sabet said. He likened marijuana legalization to 
the "new version of big tobacco."

"We're seeing big marijuana," Sabet said.

For now, SAM is creating its game plan for Alaska, but no specifics 
are available yet. Sabet said they will be trying to "contribute to a 
more balanced discussion."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom