Source: Anchorage Daily News (AK)
Author: Matt Fagnani
Published: May 4th, 2005
Copyright: 2005 The Anchorage Daily News
Contact: [email protected]
Juneau, Alaska -- Despite hard evidence to the contrary, some people
want Alaskans to believe that marijuana use is not bad for individuals.
That marijuana use is not harmful to society. That marijuana is not a
gateway drug. That marijuana users can easily cope with the 10-time
increase in potency by smoking less -- fewer joints.
Balderdash! These people are just plain wrong, which is why I applaud
the governor for his efforts to settle this issue once and for all. I
congratulate the Alaska legislators who continue to stand up for a
drug-free state. I say thank God for the strong majority of Alaska
voters who just say no to further legalizing this dangerous drug.
Alaskans have spoken with consistency three times over the past 15
years. Alaskans voted 54 percent to 46 percent in 1990 to recriminalize
marijuana after the Alaska Supreme Court ruled that residents had a
constitutional right to possess a small amount of pot in the privacy of
their homes. Alaskans turned down an effort to decriminalize marijuana
in 2000 by a vote of 41 percent to 59 percent. And last fall, Alaskans
rejected an initiative to legalize marijuana by a vote of 44.25 percent
to 55.75 percent, despite a million-dollar campaign by the
The governor's legislation, House Bill 96, is right in step with the
majority of Alaskans and rights a wrong that dates back to 1975 when the
Alaska Supreme Court ruled that Alaskans' constitutional right of
privacy protects the personal possession and use of marijuana in the
home. The courts refined and revisited this decision several times over
three decades but never updated the basic facts. The most recent ruling
came in 2004 when the high court again reaffirmed the 1975 decision and
allowed for possession of up to 4 ounces of marijuana. Four ounces
equals about 360 very potent marijuana cigarettes, an amount most
Alaskans would consider more a "misuse" than a personal use.
HB 96 includes findings that allow the courts to consider new and
up-to-date research and information when rendering the next decision on
I think I'm like most folks who assumed the courts use new information
each time a case is heard. Not so. The major court rulings on this issue
are all based on decades-old information, even though the pot of the
flower-child era bears little resemblance to the maryjane you can buy
today. In fact, marijuana grown in Alaska has reached potency levels of
more than 10 percent THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) versus the 1
percent level it was in the 1960s. THC is the primary psychoactive
ingredient in marijuana.
Marijuana is Alaska's drug of choice, which is why we must get it under
control. Almost one-fifth of all Alaskans between the ages of 18 and 25
say they've used marijuana in the past month. Almost half of all high
school students in Alaska say they used marijuana at least once, and
one-third of all men arrested in Anchorage in 2003 tested positive for
marijuana, as did 27 percent of women.
In the workplace, it's a disaster waiting to happen. Marijuana users
have 55 percent more industrial accidents than nonusers and 85 percent
It is these statistics that keep me lobbying for effective marijuana
control. I'm the president of WorkSafe Inc., an Alaska drug testing
company. I am doing this as a good citizen, not a good businessman,
because the current situation is money in the bank. As long as there is
the perception that it is legal for Alaska workers to use marijuana,
companies will have no choice but to test their employees for drugs.
Marijuana affects alertness, concentration, perception, coordination and
reaction times -- all critical skills in the workplace and the reasons
legislators and Gov. Frank Murkowski need to stay the course and pass
this legislation. A safer workplace is as important to the future of
Alaska as creating jobs.
Matt Fagnani is president of WorkSafe Inc., and past chair of Alaskans
Against the Legalization of Marijuana and Hemp.
Note: Compass: Points of view from the community.
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