Pubdate: Thu, 01 Jan 2015
Source: Alaska Dispatch News (AK)
Copyright: 2015 Alaska Dispatch Publishing
Note: Anchorage Daily News until July '14
Author: Suzanna Caldwell


When word came in January 2014 that Alaskans would again vote whether 
to legalize marijuana, the news was met largely with a shrug. After 
all, it marked the fourth time in two decades that legalization would 
be put to a vote in the state, and Alaska already had a long, 
complicated history with pot.

But once Ballot Measure 2 -- the initiative that eventually legalized 
marijuana -- qualified for the ballot, bizarre, surprising and heated 
moments followed. Makeshift buildings were blown up, people yelled at 
one another and a local reporter even quit her job on live 
television, serving as fodder for a viral video that drew 
international interest.

Here's a short list of the most memorable Alaska marijuana moments of 
2014. With the measure passed -- and lawmakers and communities 
considering how to regulate cannabis -- you can probably expect many more.

7. Marijuana meeting grows testy

As part of a legislative mandate, then-Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell hosted 
a series of meetings across Alaska on all four ballot measures 
Alaskans would consider in November. The idea was to give the public 
a chance to ask questions of the ballot measures' sponsors, opponents 
and affected government agencies. Meetings on Ballot Measure 2 had 
already been held in Juneau, Nome, Barrow and Ketchikan, to mostly 
mild responses. But in Anchorage, things got testy. There was booing, 
ad hominem attacks on legalization opponents, and general rowdiness 
and discontent that left Treadwell struggling to maintain order. 
Though the event wasn't the first or last heated moment of the 
campaign, it served as a flashpoint for rising tensions as the vote neared.

6. Yes campaign calls out Kennedy

It took four months after the initiative was certified for the 
campaign opposing Ballot Measure 2 to surface, but it took only 
moments for the measure's supporters to condemn the opponents. In 
what served as the first official salvo in the fight, The Campaign to 
Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in Alaska said it would donate $9,015 
to the "Big Marijuana. Big Mistake. Vote No on 2" campaign if it 
could prove that marijuana was more dangerous than alcohol. The 
figure -- presented at a press conference and written on a giant 
novelty check -- was based on how much money the alcohol lobby 
donated to former Rhode Island Rep. Patrick Kennedy, co-founder of 
Smart Approaches to Marijuana, a national organization that opposes 
legalization. The Yes campaign -- which was largely funded by the 
national Marijuana Policy Project -- used the press conference to 
draw comparisons to members of the No campaign and their ties to 
alcohol. It also highlighted what the Yes campaign perceived were 
connections between the national group and the local opposition 
group. However, those connections never materialized in the form of 
campaign contributions. Proponents never brought up the Kennedy issue again.

5. Butane hash oil burn-up

Butane hash oil wasn't much of an issue before the legalization 
debate, but the No campaign made sure to inform Alaskans of the 
potential dangers of the oil, made by distilling marijuana using 
flammable solvents. With a little over a week before Election Day, 
the No campaign decided to go out with a bang, staging a simulated 
butane hash oil explosion. The group had a fire chief from Colorado 
dump butane into a small shack used for firefighter training. The 
explosion blew off the shack's roof, which hadn't been secured 
properly, so the campaign did it again. While the explosions were 
impressive, they raised larger questions about what parts of the 
initiative could be amended in the legislative process. In the weeks 
following the election, a butane explosion was reported in North 
Pole, though there were no injuries. It's thought to be the first 
explosion of its kind reported to Alaska fire authorities.

4. Demboski tries to invoke local option

By late November, before the ballot initiative had even been 
certified, one Anchorage Assembly member introduced an ordinance that 
would have banned commercial marijuana in Alaska's largest city. The 
ordinance, introduced by Assembly member Amy Demboski, was met with 
hostility; some questioned the newly announced mayoral candidate's 
motives, and four hours of public testimony was overwhelmingly 
against the ordinance. The Assembly listened, voting the measure down 
9-2. The body went on to create a working group to consider 
legislation regulating marijuana.

3. Charlo's big reveal

On Sept. 20, Charlo Greene was a local news reporter who covered a 
variety of topics, including marijuana, while quietly starting her 
own business, the Alaska Cannabis Club. But the next day she stunned 
the world, airing a story on her own business and then revealing 
herself to be the owner by abruptly quitting her job on live TV using 
an expletive. Turns out that was just the beginning for Greene. Since 
then, she's turned into an Alaska weed icon, appearing in High Times 
and Vice and having her famous moment reported everywhere from the 
Huffington Post to The Guardian. But she's also found herself in the 
middle of legal troubles, fighting subpoenas from the Alaska Public 
Offices Commission and restraining orders stemming from a dispute 
with her business neighbor. What's next for Greene? Her Alaska 
Cannabis Clubhouse appears to have had its soft opening in late 
December, though personal use of recreational marijuana won't 
actually be legal until February.

2. Snoop dreams

In the days following Greene's departure from KTVA, she participated 
in a slew of interviews with national media. One of those was with 
Snoop Dogg, who in the middle of his interview said that if Alaska 
legalized recreational marijuana he would come to the state for a 
concert and "wellness retreat." When Greene asked if Snoop Dogg was 
kidding, he doubled down, saying if Alaskans voted yes he would be 
"locking and loading and coming out there." In the days since the 
measure passed, there's been no official word from Snoop's management 
on when -- or if -- that will happen, but he can be sure that 
Alaskans won't forget.

1. Voters approve recreational marijuana

Without a doubt, the biggest marijuana news of 2014 came from the 
simple fact that the initiative passed. Polling on the measure early 
in the year showed it leading, though generally by a slim margin. In 
a state known for its "live and let live" attitude, national 
supporters of legalization considered Alaska a good bet. But in the 
days leading up to the election, conflicting polls showed wildly 
different outcomes. But as returns streamed in Nov. 4, the measure 
appeared to be ahead by a slim margin. It turned out to be a lead the 
Yes campaign never relinquished even as absentee ballots arrived over 
the following weeks. The measure ultimately passed, 53 percent in 
favor to 47 percent against. With about 149,000 votes cast, more 
people voted in favor of Ballot Measure 2 than for any statewide candidate.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom