FAIRBANKS — An initiative to legalize small amounts of marijuana in Alaska will be on the ballot in November, but Gov. Sean Parnell said he won’t use state resources to explore the implications of that vote unless it passes.
Parnell said he hasn’t directed the Alaska Department of Law to consider what legalization may look like or how it would be rolled out. Ballot Measure 2 would legalize the production, sale and use of marijuana, with people ages 21 and older able to legally purchase as much as an ounce of pot.
Parnell said he’ll work to implement legalization if voters back it, but said he’s personally opposed to the initiative.
“I’m not excited about the prospect,” he said on Monday during a News-Miner editorial board meeting. “I think we’re not sending the right message to our kids.”
Voters in both Colorado and Washington approved initiatives in November 2012 to legalize marijuana. Both took more than a year to create a framework for legalizing pot, including new systems of legal oversight, taxation and quality control. Colorado began marijuana sales on Jan. 1; Washington will allow approved marijuana retailers to begin sales today.
If voters approve Ballot Measure 2 this fall, Alaska will become the third state to legalize the drug for recreational use; it’s already among 19 states that have approved medical marijuana.
Parnell said Alaska will have the benefit of learning from Colorado and Washington’s example, but he won’t ask state employees to make any preparations for possible legalization in the months ahead. He said the Alaska Department of Law should focus on its existing workload, rather than looking ahead to what may happen after election day.
“I’m not going to be spending state resources on that now,” he said.
Parnell acknowledged that the challenges ahead could be considerable if marijuana is legalized. He’s discussed the issue with Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, and said he got a simple piece of advice: “Don’t go into this lightly.”
“He urged caution among governors when it comes to passage of this,” he said. “There are a lot of unintended consequences.”
Parnell said both the Legislature and state regulatory agencies would need to follow up with oversight rules for the newly legalized drug. Ballot Measure 2 also would create a Marijuana Control Board to regulate the new industry.
Several early polls, including one commissioned by the Alaska House Majority Caucus in March, have shown majority support for the marijuana initiative.
Contact staff writer Jeff Richardson at 459-7518. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/FDNMbusiness.