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Court Denies Personal Pot Appeal

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JUNEAU -- The Alaska Court of Appeals has refused to reconsider a case in
which it ruled that adults have the right to have marijuana in their homes
for personal use.

The state appeals court on Friday afternoon denied Alaska Attorney General
Gregg Renkes' petition for a rehearing in the case of David Noy, a North
Pole man who was arrested in 2001 after he was found with marijuana in his
home. Renkes said that the next step is to ask the Alaska Supreme Court
take up the case.

In a case that is being watched around the nation, the court in August had
reversed Noy's conviction and ruled that Alaskans have the right to possess
less than four ounces of marijuana in their homes for personal use.

The court based its ruling on the broad right to privacy in Alaska's
Constitution, as interpreted in the 1975 landmark Alaska Supreme Court case
of Ravin vs. State.

The Ravin decision had led to the legalization of at-home use of small
amounts of marijuana for several years, giving Alaska the most liberal pot
laws in the nation.

That ended in 1990 when Alaska voters passed an initiative to criminalize
the possession of all pot.

But this summer's ruling in the Noy case interpreted the Ravin decision as
meaning that Alaska's constitutional right to privacy is so strong that the
voters -- and the Legislature -- are restricted from just deciding that pot
should be illegal in the home.

"The state contends that this view of Ravin is fundamentally flawed and
that Ravin did not announce a constitutional restriction on the
government's lawmaking power ... we are convinced that the state's
interpretation of Ravin is wrong," the state appeals court said Friday in
its ruling on the Noy marijuana case.

Dean Guaneli, the chief assistant attorney general, responded that the
appeals court misunderstood arguments made by the state. And the attorney
general's office on Friday issued a press release looking on the bright
side of its legal setback.

The press release was titled "Court of Appeals says State Free to Challenge
1975 Ravin Case."

It didn't mention the court's denial of the state's request for a rehearing
in the Noy case until the third paragraph.

"For the state to somehow declare this a victory is ridiculous," said
William Satterberg, the Fairbanks lawyer who is opposing the attorney
general in the Noy case.

Satterberg said the Friday appeals court ruling gave the state no power to
challenge the 1975 Ravin decision that it didn't already have.

But Guaneli said the state was worried that the appeals courts ruling on
the Noy case was couched in terms so ironclad that the state might be
unable to go back and attack the Ravin decision.

And, in Friday's ruling, the court clarified that "the state remains free
to challenge the continuing vitality of Ravin."

"We think that is really a significant part of our overall effort to get
the Ravin case ultimately overruled," Guaneli said.

The ultimate goal, Guaneli said, is for the state to be able to prove to a
court that marijuana is stronger and is causing more harm in Alaska than
back when the 1975 Ravin decision came out. Then the state might be able to
show it has a strong enough interest in making it illegal to override the
constitutional questions.

But Satterberg, the Fairbanks attorney, said the state will have to find a
new case to make that argument. Even if the Alaska Supreme Court does agree
to hear the Noy case, he said, it will just review the appeals court's
ruling and would not take up such a new argument. Guaneli, though, said the
state Supreme Court might consider it.

Pubdate: Sat, 15 Nov 2003
Source: Anchorage Daily News (AK)
Webpage: http://www.adn.com/alaska/story/4380043p-4391162c.html
Copyright: 2003 The Anchorage Daily News
Contact: letters@adn.com
Website: Anchorage Daily News: Alaska News, Politics, Outdoors, Science and Events