Alaska Has Officially Become the Third State to Legalize Marijuana


Recreational marijuana use is now legal in the state of Alaska.

On Tuesday, an initiative that passed with 52% of the Alaskan vote in November 2014 officially went into effect after a 90-day waiting period. The Last Frontier is now the third state to enjoy the benefits of a totally legal high.

According to the Alaska Dispatch, citizens of the state 21 and older are now allowed to privately possess and transport up to an ounce of weed and associated accessories outside their homes and grow up to six marijuana plants and store around four ounces in their own residence.

How we got here: While consumption of marijuana inside private homes has been legal in the state since a 1975 state Supreme Court case, possession of the drug has always came with criminal penalties. Those no longer exist, so long as Alaskans don't openly smoke marijuana (which comes with a $100 fine).

Unfortunately, there's still a major legal gray area: buying the drug. Alaskans are allowed to grow the plant for personal consumption, but the state has yet to set up parameters for a legal marijuana marketplace.

As NPR reported in November, the law only allowed the state government to set up a marijuana control board to set up a regulatory regime after the 90-day waiting period, which means that the process of determining where, how and when weed can be sold has only just begun. 

The Alaska Dispatch notes that thanks to the built-in delay, marijuana dispensaries aren't expected to open until summer 2016, while the legislature is working on adjusting the existing criminal code to account for less restrictive rules on pot.

Ted S. Warren/AP

Why you should care: Alaska is a Republican-dominated state that hasn't voted for a Democratic president since 1964 and whose legislature has been controlled by the GOP for 20 years. The success of Alaska's marijuana legalization initiative demonstrates that marijuana reform doesn't have to be a partisan issue. It shouldn't be, either, given that research has found the substance is up to 114 times safer than legal drugs like alcohol and tobacco.

Social attitudes on marijuana have swung so dramatically that Gallup polling now consistently shows a majority of U.S. citizens are in favor of legalizing weed. A 2014 Public Policy Polling study even found that 39% of Alaska's Mitt Romney voters were in support of recreational marijuana.

You know marijuana has hit the mainstream when enough conservatives are on board to swing the vote. Eventually, more state governments and even the feds are going to catch on and loosen their grip on the nation's drug laws. It's just a matter of time.