Alaska Voters Approve Historic Ballot Initiative to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol

ANCHORAGE – Alaska voters approved a ballot initiative Tuesday to end marijuana prohibition in the state and replace it with a system in which marijuana is regulated and taxed similarly to alcohol. The initiative was leading 52.15% to 47.85% with 100% of precincts reporting at the end of the night.

Ballot Measure 2 makes possession of limited amounts of marijuana legal for adults 21 years of age and older. It creates a tightly regulated system of licensed marijuana retail stores, licensed cultivation facilities, licensed manufacturing facilities, and licensed testing facilities, and it establishes an excise tax of $50 per ounce on wholesale marijuana sales or transfers (such as those from a cultivation facility to a retail store). More information about the initiative is available at

Statement from Taylor Bickford, spokesperson for the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol:

“Now that the campaign is over, it’s time to establish a robust regulatory system that sets an example for other states. A regulated marijuana market will generate millions of dollars in tax revenue and create good jobs for Alaskans. Law enforcement will be able to spend their time addressing serious crimes instead of enforcing failed marijuana prohibition laws. We look forward to working with state officials and other stakeholders to ensure the new law is implemented responsibly and in a way that reflects the will of the voters.”

Statement from Chris Rempert, political director for the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol:

“Marijuana prohibition has been an abject failure, and Alaska voters said enough is enough. People are seeing through the fear mongering and misinformation that have been used to keep marijuana illegal for so many years. One of our campaign’s primary messages was that marijuana is less harmful than alcohol, and that adults should not be punished for making the safer choice. The voters agreed. It’s time to move forward and leave marijuana prohibition behind. With public support growing rapidly, it won’t be long before more states follow suit. Alaska is on the right side of history.”

New Report: Regulating Marijuana in Alaska Could Generate Over $72.5 Million in Tax Revenue in First Five Years of Legal Sales

According to independent research organization, passage of Ballot Measure 2 could bring in more than $8.5 million in the first year of sales and nearly $24 million per year by 2020

ANCHORAGE — Passage of Ballot Measure 2 could generate more than $72.5 million in tax revenue in the first five years of legal marijuana sales, according to a new report from an independent research organization. It could bring in more than $8.5 million in the first year and nearly $24 million per year by 2020. The full report is available here.

The study was conducted by the Marijuana Policy Group, a collaborative effort between university researchers and economic research consultants, which does not take a stance on whether marijuana should be legal. According to a report by the Washington Post, the organization received no payment for the study and chose to undertake it because the State of Alaska did not perform the research on its own.

Statement from Chris Rempert of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, which is supporting Ballot Measure 2:

“The report confirms that regulating marijuana like alcohol would produce significant new revenue for our state. Generating new revenue is not the only reason to support ending marijuana prohibition, but it is a good reason.

“Passage of Ballot Measure 2 will not only bolster Alaska’s economy, but also enhance public safety. Regulating marijuana would take tens of millions of dollars in marijuana sales out of the underground market where profits benefit criminals who aren’t paying taxes. It would also ensure marijuana is properly tested, packaged, and labeled, and that cultivation and sales are tightly controlled.

“Marijuana sales are going to take place in Alaska regardless of whether Ballot Measure 2 passes. Voters need to decide whether we should continue forcing those sales into the underground market or allow them to be conducted by legitimate, taxpaying businesses.”

Yes on 2 Launches TV and Radio Ads Featuring Active Duty and Retired Alaska Law Enforcement Officials

A local Alaska police officer, a retired chief state prosecutor, and a former deputy commissioner of corrections say they are voting YES on Ballot Measure 2 because marijuana prohibition has failed and law enforcement resources would be better spent addressing serious crime

ANCHORAGE — The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol launched television and radio ads Wednesday featuring active duty and retired Alaska law enforcement officials explaining why they support Ballot Measure 2, the initiative on the November ballot to end marijuana prohibition in Alaska.

In one television ad, titled “The Officer,” Valdez-based police officer Jess Gondek says, “In all [his] years on the streets, it’s hard to recall a single time where marijuana use itself was the cause of a violent incident.” He then says, “As a police officer, I do believe Ballot Measure 2 will allow law enforcement to focus on more serious issues in Alaska.” Watch the ad online here.

In a second television ad, titled “The Deputy Commissioner,” a former Alaska Department of Corrections Deputy Commissioner, Bill Parker, says, “The war on marijuana is wasteful and it hasn’t worked.” He notes law enforcement officials’ time and resources are limited, and he says wasting them on the enforcement of marijuana prohibition laws is like “using a hammer to go after a mosquito.” Watch the ad online here.

The Yes on 2 campaign also began airing a 60-second radio ad, titled “Voices of Reason,” that features Laurie Constantino, former chief prosecutor for the State of Alaska. She says state marijuana prohibition laws “just aren’t working” and “have caused far more problems than they’ve solved.” The ad also features Parker and Anchorage high school teacher, Kim Kole. Listen to the ad online here.

“We’ve heard from a number of active duty and retired law enforcement officials who agree marijuana prohibition has failed in Alaska,” said Chris Rempert, political director for the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol. “The current and former officials in these ads make it clear that support for regulating marijuana spans the law enforcement community.  Unfortunately, many folks in law enforcement are not able to speak out publicly because they fear political reprisal.”


Yes on 2 Campaign Slams Anchorage Assemblyman for Colluding With Opposition Group to Pass Resolution Opposing the Initiative to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol

Assemblyman Dick Traini emailed leader of No on 2 campaign to coordinate backdoor lobbying effort in support of under-the-radar measure on which the public will be unable to provide comment

ANCHORAGE — The campaign supporting Ballot Measure 2, the initiative to regulate marijuana like alcohol, slammed Anchorage Assemblyman Dick Traini on Tuesday for colluding with the No on 2 campaign to pass an Assembly resolution he introduced in opposition to the measure. Despite Traini’s behind-the-scenes effort to encourage the political group opposing Measure 2 to lobby his fellow members, the Assembly is currently planning to prohibit the general public from commenting on the resolution, which includes several misleading and otherwise intellectually dishonest statements. See below for examples.

The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol has obtained a September 20 email from Traini to No on 2 campaign leader Deborah Williams, in which he notified her of the resolution and said, “We need to contact every assembly member and urge them to vote yes, thanks.” Traini also forwarded Ms. Williams an official message he received September 19 from Assembly Counsel Julia Tucker informing him that the resolution had been submitted as an item for consideration during the Assembly’s September 23 meeting.

Traini, who introduced the measure, has previously helped the No on 2 group raise money at campaign fundraising events in Anchorage.

“Assemblyman Traini is flying this resolution under the radar, and he’s doing it in a fashion that raises serious ethical questions,” said Chris Rempert, political director for the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol. “I think it would be hard to argue that this is not an improper use of his official position. He introduced the resolution less than three business days before he intends to hold a vote, and his only effort to notify the public was to quietly coordinate with his cohorts at the No on 2 campaign. He has touted the need for transparency in government, but it appears he’s okay with keeping voters in the dark if he believes it will benefit him politically.”

“The resolution is dripping with intellectual dishonesty,” Rempert said. “It includes a number of questionable — and at times false — claims, and it omits any fact that contradicts them. Assemblyman Traini is stacking the deck with phony cards.”

“For the Assembly to take a position without a single work session or hearing on the issue, no public testimony whatsoever, and without seeing the outcome of the 9 month rulemaking period that will follow the passage of the initiative is wildly premature,” Rempert continued. “At the very least, you’d think they would want to hear from their constituents through the vote on November 4 before committing themselves in either direction.”

Examples of misleading statements and factual inaccuracies in Assemblyman Traini’s proposed resolution:

  • It states marijuana is illegal under federal law, but fails to acknowledge the U.S. Justice Department’s August 2013 memo declaring that the federal government would not interfere in states’ efforts to regulate marijuana for adult use.
  • It states that the Denver Municipal Attorney’s Office reports the city has experienced an increase in the robbery rate, but fails to mention that Denver has released crime statistics that found a decrease in robberies and other crimes from January to August 2014 compared to the same period in 2013; Denver police officials have reported no increase in crime stemming from the new marijuana laws; and that a previous analysis performed by the Denver Police Department found that marijuana businesses are robbed no more frequently than non-marijuana businesses.
  • It states that all marijuana-related transactions occurring in Denver are conducted in cash, when in fact most businesses accept debit cards. It also states that taxes and licensing fees paid in cash to the city are “causing public safety issues,” yet there have not been reports of any public safety-related problems occurring. It declares code inspectors and municipal license officers are placed at greater risk in performing their routine duties, yet there is no evidence to back that up.
  • It states there are “no health standards…in force for child protective packaging, warning labels, or adult service size,” but Ballot Measure 2 clearly directs Alaska’s state officials to adopt such regulations during the 9 month rulemaking period that will follow passage of the initiative. In Colorado, the legislature and state regulators have adopted strict child-proof packaging requirements and extensive labeling requirements, as well as a standard serving size for marijuana-infused products.
  • It states there is a reasonable expectation that the demand for abuse and addiction resources may increase despite research that has found up to 70% of Americans in treatment for marijuana were forced into it by the criminal justice system in order to avoid more serious legal penalties. Meanwhile, the National Institute of Drug Abuse and other researchers have reported that marijuana is significantly less addictive than alcohol and tobacco. Clearly there is just as reasonable – if not more reasonable – an expectation that demand for such resources will decrease.


My Turn: Ballot Measure 2 strikes the right balance for rural Alaska


I grew up in rural Alaska, surrounded by drugs and alcohol. I didn’t come from a troubled home or a broken community. Still, growing up in Eagle and Cordova, I encountered drugs and alcohol like many Alaskans do — frequently.

In high school, I began to see more “hard” drugs, and began drinking socially. Cordova’s fishing fleet, like many groups of hard-working and independent Alaskans, struggles with drug and alcohol use.

It was also in high school that I was first offered marijuana. I chose not to smoke marijuana mostly because it didn’t appeal to me. I never smoked cigarettes either, despite their legality.

Continue reading My Turn: Ballot Measure 2 strikes the right balance for rural Alaska