Pubdate: Sun, 16 Nov 2014
Source: Alaska Dispatch News (AK)
Copyright: 2014 Alaska Dispatch Publishing
Note: Anchorage Daily News until July '14
Author: Suzanna Caldwell


Alaska voters approved Ballot Measure 2 on Nov. 4, effectively 
legalizing recreational marijuana in Alaska. But even though the law 
is still months from taking effect, there are big questions about 
what exactly will be legal.

One of the major issues to be resolved is transportation of marijuana 
via air and water to the many Alaska communities that are off the 
main road system. With federal law governing much of that travel, the 
legality of transporting small amounts of marijuana that way is in question.

"It all depends on what the law says," said John Parrott, airport 
manager at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport.

Parrott was referring to the state laws and regulations that will 
govern marijuana enforcement. The state won't begin crafting those 
laws until February, when the initiative goes into effect. From 
there, the state has nine months to come up with rules.

The Transportation Security Administration is in charge of airport 
security. A spokesman said that if during security screening an 
officer discovers something that may violate the law, including 
marijuana, TSA refers the matter to law enforcement. Law enforcement 
officials will determine whether to initiate a criminal investigation.

Under federal law, it is illegal to possess and transport marijuana. 
However, federal prosecutors have indicated they will not pursue 
charges for minor marijuana-related crimes in states with legal marijuana.

Parrott said that for small regional air carriers that do not use TSA 
screening, airport police often help intercept alcoholic beverages 
that could be shipped to dry communities. He said the airport could 
potentially do the same with marijuana.

"There are more questions than answers at this point," Parrott said Thursday.

The same seems to apply to the Alaska Marine Highway System.

"Future enforcement and transportation of marijuana on state ferries 
is still uncertain," Department of Transportation and Public 
Facilities spokesman Jeremy Woodrow wrote in an email. "(The 
department) will be working closely with the Department of Law over 
the next year to update policy, if necessary."

Currently, marijuana is illegal on all ferries. Woodrow said crews 
have no formal system for dealing with people who bring marijuana on 
board. However, if a passenger is suspected of having it, staff will 
alert local authorities at the next port of call.

It's also unclear how the new law will affect people bringing 
marijuana onto Alaska vessels docked in Bellingham, Washington. It's 
illegal to possess marijuana on a ferry docked in Washington, because 
the ferry is technically Alaska state property.

The U.S. Coast Guard, which monitors all navigable waterways 
(including nearly every body of water in Alaska), said it would 
continue to enforce federal laws prohibiting marijuana.

Spokesman Kip Wadlow said the kind of enforcement could vary 
depending on the amount of marijuana and the situation. Actions could 
include seizing the marijuana or taking the owner into custody.

Wadlow also emphasized concerns about increased incidents of people 
boating under the influence of marijuana, which is currently -- and 
will remain -- illegal.

"If people are using marijuana and out there operating a vessel, they 
are operating impaired and boating under the influence, we can take 
that person into custody," he said Thursday.

"If you are out on the water, the Coast Guard wants people boating sober."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom