Sunday, June 14, 2009

The legal dope experiment in Alaska

Nicholas D. Kristof writes in the NY Times:
Moving forward, we need to be less ideological and more empirical in figuring out what works in combating America’s drug problem. One approach would be for a state or two to experiment with legalization of marijuana, allowing it to be sold by licensed pharmacists, while measuring the impact on usage and crime.
That sounds like a good idea, but the experiment has already been done in Alaska:
In 1975, the Alaska Supreme Court ruled in "Ravin v. State of Alaska" that a fundamental constitutional right to privacy protects personal marijuana possession. This legalized the possession of up to four ounces of marijuana for personal use. In 1990, however, a voter initiative changed state law to make possession of any amount of marijuana illegal, even in one's own home.

This clash of laws has lead to a number of court cases and appeals in the state. The latest appellate court decision deemed the 1990 voter initiative unconstitutional, on the grounds that a popular voter initiative cannot overturn a core constitutional principle.
The Alaskans keep trying to recriminalize marijuana, but the courts don't allow it, as this July 2006 story says:
A Superior Court judge has struck down part of a new Alaska law intended to circumvent the state Supreme Court's ruling that legalizes possession of small amounts of marijuana, the Associated Press reported July 11.
If Kristof really wants an empirical approach, then I suggest that he learns what happened in Alaska, and find out why the Alaskans want to recriminalize marijuana.

1 comment:

hybt77 said...

A very relevant, yet underplayed component to the issue of marijuana legalization is generational, which might well be a gamechanger. Obama, and many of his key appointees, are members of Generation Jones-—born 1954-1965, between the Boomers and Generation X. Many top national commentators (from Newsweek, NBC, CNN, etc.) have spoken about the importance and relevance of GenJones as the new generation of leadership; this could be a gamechanger re. the drug issue for at least two reasons:

1) Jonesers are by far the biggest pot smokers compared to the other generations. While Boomers are associated with pot, it was only a small, albeit very visible, segment of Boomers who actually smoked pot back in the day. Govt. and independent studies show that Jonesers as teens (in the 1970s) smoked 15 to 20 times more pot than Boomers did as teens. And not only did Jonesers smoke much more grass than any other generation of teens in US history, but still today--in middle-age--smoke it a remarkable amount. The data is really striking.

2) One of the key collective personality traits consistently attributed to Jonesers is their pragmatism; they are far likelier to put aside ideology and deal with drugs in a realistic and practical way.

Here's a page with a good recent overview about GenJones:

If ever there was a generation of leadership open to legalizing pot, it probably is Generation Jones. And if there ever was a time that the country might be open to this change in drug laws, perhaps it’s now…