A proposal to legalize marijuana in Alaska will appear on the ballot in November rather than August, officials said in April. That means it will be decided during an election with heavier turnout and, likely, stronger support for legal weed.
Under state law, the ballot initiative was supposed to appear on the August primary ballot. But an extended session in the legislature has postponed the measure until the fall election.
On April 21, state officials confirmed the initiative wouldn’t be on the Aug. 19 primary ballot. State law says there must be at least 120 days between the end of a legislative session and an initiative election.
Legalization was one of three initiatives slated for the August ballot. The others, which deal with oil taxes and education, were also pushed back to Nov. 4.
Pot proponents may gain an edge by moving to the fall election. Not only will there be more voters, there will likely be more of the young voters who support legal marijuana.
But the state has now lost its edge in the race to reform. With an August vote, it was slated to become the third state to legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana, after Colorado and Washington.
Those two states voted to legalize weed in 2012. Several other states are likely to follow in coming years, from California to Rhode Island. The most likely options this year are Alaska and Oregon.
Alaska was first in line, but now voters in both states will decide at the same time. Other states will be voting on cannabis issues as well, including Florida, whose voters will decide whether to allow medical marijuana.
Many of these efforts are expected to pass as a tide of reform sweeps the nation. And it’s no accident that Alaska is close behind Washington and Colorado.
The state’s Supreme Court declared in the 1970s that residents could legally possess up to 4 ounces of pot in their homes. Though subsequent decisions have chipped away at that ruling and the legislature has tried to ban the drug, weed essentially remains decriminalized in Alaska.
That’s due in large part to a tolerant libertarian attitude prevalent throughout the state. Alaskans prefer to mind their own business, and they prefer their neighbors do the same.
Polling shows most Alaska voters are ready to legalize. Surveys released earlier this year showed more than 50 percent favor the initiative that will appear on the ballot in November.