Pubdate: Fri, 07 Nov 2014
Source: Alaska Dispatch News (AK)
Copyright: 2014 Alaska Dispatch Publishing
Note: Anchorage Daily News until July '14
Author: Suzanna Caldwell


Two days after voters approved a measure legalizing recreational 
marijuana in Alaska, law enforcement personnel are starting to ponder 
what enforcement of personal possession will look like.

The short answer: Nothing changes, at least for now. Most agencies 
are still reviewing how enforcement will be adapted -- or not -- when 
the measure becomes law in early 2015.

"Right now we are trying to analyze the initiative and try to 
determine what are the steps that need to be taken," said John 
Skidmore, criminal division director for the Alaska Department of 
Law. "But I don't have an answer as to what that outcome of that 
analysis is, only that we are starting to look at those things and to 
work on those questions."

Skidmore noted that until the initiative goes into law, marijuana 
criminal statutes are still in effect. The law is not retroactive, 
and therefore any possession and attempted sales are still illegal 
until the initiative goes on the books. However, his department is 
considering pending cases and how it will proceed with them.

"We haven't decided yet," Skidmore said.

Alaska State Troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters said once the election 
is certified, then the agency will begin working with the Alaska 
Department of Law to clarify what law enforcement and prosecution 
protocols will be regarding personal possession.

Anchorage Police Department Chief Mark Mew said in an email that it 
is still early to speculate about how Alaska's largest police force 
will deal with the issue. Mew said he plans on facilitating 
discussions in the coming days between various stakeholder groups, 
including prosecutors and courts, on how to deal with marijuana.

"(APD) won't be deciding anything in a vacuum," he wrote.

Even after the measure is certified by the lieutenant governor's 
office, under Alaska statutes the law won't take effect until 90 days 
later. However, when the initiative does become law, likely in mid to 
late February, then it will be legal for adults 21 and over to 
possess and transport up to 1 ounce of marijuana and have up to six 
plants, three of which can be mature. People can give each other up 
to 1 ounce of marijuana, or up to six immature plants. Smoking in 
public will still be banned, and offending parties will be subject to 
up to a $100 fine.

Once the law is enacted, the Legislature has the option to create a 
Marijuana Control Board, which would be housed under the Department 
of Commerce, Community and Economic Development. From there, that 
entity has nine months to craft business regulations that allow 
commercial businesses to open and operate.

Kalie Klaysmat, executive director of the Alaska Association of 
Chiefs of Police, noted that there's been plenty of confusion from 
citizens on how the process works. She said she talked to chiefs who 
said people have already come into stations wanting a commercial 
permit for marijuana stores. Not only is that not legal yet, it's 
unlikely Alaskans would ever go through police to get retail licenses.

"The public doesn't seem to understand what the law is," she said Thursday.

Klaysmat said her organization's marijuana working group plans to 
meet in the coming days to discuss how to move forward. The group 
wants to make sure officers are prepared for the impacts of legalization.

"We've said all along that this will increase risks and costs in our 
communities," she said. "We're going to have find ways to deal with this."

The one agency not experiencing any change? U.S. District Court for 
the District of Alaska.

Karen Loeffler, U.S. attorney for the District of Alaska, said her 
office will be watching how the state crafts marijuana regulations, 
but that marijuana enforcement priorities for her organization have 
not changed. A memo from the U.S. Department of Justice in August 
2013 laid out priorities for federal marijuana enforcement that 
generally only apply to serious offenses, including preventing 
distribution to minors and stopping revenue from going to large 
criminal enterprises or cartels.

"We intend to stick with those priorities," Loeffler said.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom