Marijuana Officially Legal in Alaska for Private Use

Although ban on public smoking remains, Alaskans can now be in possession of up to one ounce and six plants

By
Alaska Marijuana
Members of the Alaska Cannabis Club roll a joint at their medical marijuana dispensary in Anchorage, Alaska on February 20th, 2015. Mark Thiessen/Corbis

After voting to legalize marijuana this past November, Alaska residents can finally bask in the smoke of decriminalized weed as the law allowing the "private use" of the drug was officially enacted on Tuesday. Under the new law, Alaskan residents will now be allowed to smoke weed in their own homes and grow up to six plants per residence. However, getting high in public is still illegal in the form of a strictly enforced $100 fine. Consequently, because of the public ban and threat of fines, a legal weed outdoor celebration party scheduled for Tuesday in Anchorage was canceled, USA Today writes.

Alaska's new decriminalized pot law isn't as lax as Colorado and Washington (and potentially Washington, D.C.), but it's still more accepting of the drug than 47 other states' policies toward marijuana. For instance, as Time notes, if a person is pulled over in Alaska for expired tags and an ounce of weed – the maximum amount allowed under the new law – is found inside the vehicle, the driver will only be ticketed for the expired tag. (That is, unless there's evidence of "toking and driving," which is still frowned upon.)

Alaska has largely stayed out of pot issues since 1975, when the state Supreme Court legalized pot use inside the home as part of their unique and protective privacy laws. However, being in possession of marijuana was still a crime, creating a catch-22 that Alaska has grappled with for three decades until the November decision to decriminalize weed clarified the issue. "For the people of Alaska, it's a day where all of this 'Is it legal?' or 'Isn't it legal?' is straightened out," said Cynthia Franklin, the director of Alaska's liquor control board.

However, there are legitimate concerns about the effect legalized weed will have on Alaska, especially in a Native American community already rife with drug abuse, domestic violence and suicide. "When they start depending on smoking marijuana, I don't know how far they'd go to get the funds they need to support it, to support themselves," said Edward Nick, council member in Manokotak, told the Associated Press. Details about the sale of marijuana in Alaska are still being worked out.

In an effort to make sure Alaskan citizens don't descend into reefer madness, the state plans on lining buses with slogans like "Consume responsibly" and "With great marijuana laws comes great responsibility."

x