Alaskans can now legally possess up to four ounces of marijuana in
their homes, thanks to a Juneau court's reversal of a 2001 ruling
forbidding the practice. Now it's time for the lower 49 states to get
with the program.

The laudable ruling of the Alaskan state appellate court signals an
ongoing change in the way society views the drug and highlights the
need for a cohesive federal policy allowing the sale and regulation of
pot.

If a traditionally conservative state like Alaska can allow private
marijuana use, and if it has been decriminalized by the Canadian
government, Washington should take a clue and follow suit with its own
legislation.

Cloudy legal issues can arise when states change their marijuana
policies to conflict with the federal government's, as Alaska has
done. Since selling pot amounts to a federal misdemeanor, the Alaska
law is inherently contradictory - possessing pot is now legal, but
selling it remains a crime. The federal government's overly harsh
stance makes little sense in the face of a changing society. The
American public's concern for marijuana use is ephemeral at best.

Alaska Gov. Frank Murkowski called the action "regrettable," and
pointed at substance abuse as a harm to the state's young people.
Murkowski's stance mirrors that of many government officials whose
concerns about the spread of drug abuse are not reflected in
contemporary society - especially not on U.S. college campuses, where
the stigma surrounding marijuana has evaporated like so much spilled
beer.

The government's concurrent ad campaign against marijuana use is
equally infuriating, since it promotes the antiquated and widely
disputed view that marijuana is a gateway drug to heroin, coke and the
downfall of society. Studies from the RAND research group and the U.S.
government's own National Institute of Justice have concluded that the
"gateway effect" holds no merit, especially among juvenile offenders.
These studies are backed up by a senate report from the Canadian
government as well as several other studies from U.S.-based policy
research groups.

The shift in American values is undeniable, as are the facts, so the
shift in policy should be appropriately swift. Though the public
stance on the issue should be gauged more accurately, the Alaska
ruling gives us an inkling of the coming debate and a sense of what
must be done to accommodate it.


Pubdate: Tue, 02 Sep 2003
Source: Daily Orange, The (NY Edu)
Copyright: 2003 The Daily Orange Corporation
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