Alaska, commonly referred to as The Last Frontier, will be a pioneer in the cannabis industry. In November 2015, the Alaska state marijuana and control board approved on-site cannabis consumption at licensed retail stores, which means Alaska will be the first state in the U.S. to allow onsite consumption of cannabis at licensed retail cannabis shops. Soon adults 21 and older in Alaska will be allowed to consume cannabis in a regulated setting.
While it’s an exciting time for cannabis advocates and entrepreneurs looking to do business in Alaska, many people are unfamiliar with the state’s history as it relates to cannabis and aren’t even aware of how far Alaska has come in its legalization efforts.
In 1972, Irwin Ravin of Anchorage (known as the grandfather of Alaska’s marijuana legalization movement) was arrested after refusing to sign a traffic citation for a broken taillight. His civil disobedience was all a ploy — knowingly in possession of marijuana at the time of his traffic stop, Ravin’s hope was to get arrested and have his case heard before the Supreme Court in an extreme effort to reform Alaska’s marijuana laws.
Surprisingly, it worked. In 1975 Alaska decriminalized marijuana and ruled in favor of Ravin, concluding that the state of Alaska indeed “violated his right of privacy under both federal and Alaska constitutions.” Did you know the Alaska Supreme Court was the first state or federal court to announce a constitutional privacy right protecting some level of marijuana and possession?
In 1990, voters responded to the Supreme Court’s ruling with Measure 2, also known as the Alaska Marijuana Criminalization Initiative. The intent of the measure was to invalidate Alaska Supreme Court’s decision in the case of Ravin v. Alaska. While Measure 2 passed criminalizing all possession of marijuana, the Alaska Supreme Court’s ruling in the Ravin case years before made it difficult to prosecute adults caught in possession of cannabis.
This back and forth battle between those in support and those against the legalization of cannabis continued for a quarter of a century until 2015, when Measure 2 was passed to legalize adult use of cannabis in Alaska.