Pubdate: Fri, 26 Sep 2014
Source: Alaska Dispatch News (AK)
Copyright: 2014 Alaska Dispatch Publishing
Note: Anchorage Daily News until July '14
Author: Suzanna Caldwell
Page: A-1


Opposition Counters Pro-Legalization Effort to Gain Support of Alaska Parents

Alaskans on both sides of Ballot Measure 2 on Thursday asked voters 
to consider one question: Will legal, regulated sales keep marijuana 
out of the hands of young people or give them easier access to it?

The answer to that question depends on which campaign you ask.

The two sides presented their cases in dueling press conferences 
related to the yes campaign's introduction of a coalition of parents 
in favor of the initiative, which seeks to legalize and regulate 
recreational marijuana in Alaska for those 21 years and older. The 
Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in Alaska on Thursday 
announced the support of 35 Alaska parents and the launch of an ad 
campaign that will specifically target Alaska moms and dads.

In response, the opposition group, Big Marijuana. Big Mistake. Vote 
No on 2, scheduled a news conference to note that they have plenty of 
support from parents and to point out the 36 organizations and 27 
community leaders and politicians who oppose the measure.

One of those leaders is Dr. George Stewart, a retired pulmonologist, 
father of five and grandfather of nine, who particularly decried the 
medical risks associated with marijuana and said he worries over the 
health impact of increased use.

"I think it makes absolutely no sense at all for a parent to be in 
favor of passing a law when they then don't want their children to 
use the product that's involved," Stewart said in a statement. "The 
best thing is to not pass the law in the first place, and then you 
have to worry less about your children."

But the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in Alaska argues 
that legalizing marijuana would do a better job at keeping it away, 
noting that marijuana is already in Alaska and that drug dealers are 
not limiting their sales to adults over 21.

Kim Kole, a mother of two teenage girls and a high school science 
teacher, said she supports the measure because she believes marijuana 
prohibition has failed to keep the substance away from teenagers.

She said her students have told her it's easier for them to get 
marijuana in schools than it is to get alcohol. Kole said that 
indicates that alcohol regulation is working and that it's reasonable 
to believe the same could be done with marijuana.

"Marijuana is prolific in this state and we already have a 
multimillion-dollar industry being run by criminals in the 
underground market," she said in a statement. "Ironically, it's 
probably easier for teenagers to obtain it in schools than it is for 
responsible adults to get it."

Kole also noted Colorado's tax structure, which has designated 
marijuana tax revenues to go toward public health, drug prevention 
and schools. Kole noted that the same could apply to Alaska, 
potentially offsetting the cost of school bonds taxpayers might 
otherwise have to consider in the future. That has not been decided 
in Alaska, though; it is ultimately up to the Legislature to decide 
where the money could go, since ballot initiatives cannot allocate tax revenue.

Kole, who will be the face of an ad campaign designed to target 
parents, declined to name the high school where she is employed, but 
online records show a Kimberley Garner, Kole's previous name, listed 
as a teacher at South Anchorage High School.

John and Karin Wanamaker, Alaska parents of three, harshly condemned 
the initiative. They have two teen sons attending West High School 
and one attending Romig Middle School. They said their sons are in 
the "exposure period" when they could likely be introduced to 
marijuana. They don't want legalization to pass because they don't 
want to send the wrong message -- that marijuana is OK to use.

With all the problems surrounding alcohol, John Wanamaker noted, why 
consider marijuana?

"One's a legal intoxicant with all kinds of social ills," he said at 
the press conference. "Do we really need another?"

In an interview after the event, Wanamaker, a principal with Alaska 
Venture Partners, said when it comes to business, he sees the appeal 
of some risky start-ups. But he has serious concerns over the scope 
of Ballot Measure 2 and doesn't think it is a proposition worth passing.

"I invest in progressive ideas," he said. "I'm into pushing the 
limits. But this is not an issue you want to push."

But Anchorage dad Lloyd Stanfield disagrees. He's a parent and 
medical marijuana cardholder. He wants to make sure that legalizing 
marijuana is done responsibly, and he feels this is the best way to 
do it. He came on board following a tense Tuesday night meeting that 
he called "inappropriate."

"I just want people to see that there's a responsible way to go about 
(legalization)," Stanfield said.
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