On Friday, Alaska Gov. Frank Murkowski (R) signed a bill that has re-criminalized marijuana in the state.
Even though political observers originally expected the bill to pass within weeks of its introduction in early 2005, many months of lobbying and grassroots organizing by MPP, the ACLU of Alaska, and Alaskans for Marijuana Regulation and Control succeeded in blocking the bill for one-and-a-half years. However, an intense lobbying campaign by the governor and state attorney general, which included personal phone calls to waffling legislators, ultimately tilted the vote.
The new law, which makes it a crime to possess any amount of marijuana in the privacy of one’s home, directly contradicts a September 2004 Alaska Supreme Court ruling allowing adults aged 21 and older to use and possess up to four ounces of marijuana in the privacy of their homes. (The MPP grants program funded this litigation.) The ACLU plans to challenge the new, blatantly unconstitutional law in court.
Although we lost our lobbying battle, we have much to show for the past 1.5 years of work. We demonstrated that we have a serious political operation in Alaska, including a database of almost 60,000 people whom we have identified as being supportive, which will be crucial if we run a ballot initiative to tax and regulate marijuana in Alaska in November 2008.
We also now have polling that shows we can win such an initiative campaign, because 56% of Alaskans now say that possession of small amounts of marijuana should be legal ... indicating that the media coverage we generated made major inroads in changing people’s attitudes toward marijuana policy.
All of these things give us a solid foundation to tax and regulate marijuana in the state in 2008.
However, MPP is about $60,000 in the hole because of the substantial financial support we provided to Alaskans for Marijuana Regulation and Control to (1) run radio ads criticizing the bill, (2) generate calls from thousands of Alaska voters to their legislators, (3) retain the former deputy commissioner of corrections to lobby full time against the bill, and (4) conduct public opinion polling.