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DA Asks Judge To Look Again at Issue

of Marijuana Possession

 

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Source: Anchorage Daily News (AK)
Author: Sheila Toomey, Anchorage Daily News
Published: December 16, 2004
Copyright: 2004 The Anchorage Daily News 
Contact: [email protected] 
Website: http://www.adn.com/ 

The state is going after the 1975 Alaska Supreme Court decision that says adults can possess up to 4 ounces of marijuana for personal use in their own homes.

In an action supported by Gov. Frank Murkowski, the Anchorage district attorney has asked a judge to re-examine the 1975 Ravin v. state conclusion that marijuana in small amounts is essentially harmless to adults and not dangerous enough to override Alaska's constitutional right to privacy at home.

"The idea that marijuana is a harmless substance is contrary to all the scientific studies that exist today," said John Novak, chief assistant district attorney and one of the prosecutors who filed a motion Tuesday in Anchorage Superior Court.

If the state gets its wish, Novak envisions a full-blown hearing about the nature and effects of current marijuana use featuring experts on both sides.

The state appeals courts have already said they would be willing to reconsider Ravin if presented with compelling new evidence that small amounts of marijuana are harmful.

Prosecutors may also be buoyed by the 138,072-105,590 vote in last month's election against decriminalizing all amounts of marijuana.

The vehicle chosen by prosecutors to re-examine the subject is a 2000 case against convicted drug dealer Gerald Mahle, 64, who is currently serving a 25-year sentence on an unrelated 2002 conviction, according to assistant district attorney Keri Brady, who prosecuted both cases.

Mahle was convicted by a jury in the 2000 case on multiple counts involving drugs and guns. Police obtained their initial search warrant in that case based on smelling marijuana during a conversation at Mahle's door after a neighbor complained about drug trafficking there.

During this period, police and prosecutors were operating under the assumption that the Ravin decision was dead because Alaskans voted in 1990 to re-criminalize possession of any amount of marijuana.

However, between Mahle's arrest in 2000 and his scheduled sentencing in 2004, the state Court of Appeals threw out a Fairbanks marijuana conviction and a marijuana possession charge in Homer on the grounds that Ravin was still the law and possession of less than 4 ounces at home was legal.


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