Cannabis in Alaska

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”Uncle Herb’s” marijuana retail store, Homer

Cannabis in Alaska is legal for recreational use since 2015. It was first legalized by the court ruling Ravin v. State in 1975, but later recriminalized by Measure 2 in 1990. Ballot measures in 2000 and 2004 attempted (but failed) to legalize recreational use, until finally Measure 2 in 2014 passed with 53.2% of the vote. Medical use was legalized by way of Measure 8 in 1998.[1]


Decriminalization (1975)[edit]

On May 16, 1975, Alaska became the second state in the U.S. to decriminalize cannabis. The law imposed a $100 fine for persons possessing cannabis, and became law without the governor's signature. It passed just a week before the Ravin ruling.[2]

Ravin v. State (1975)[edit]

Ravin v. State was a 1975 decision by the Alaska Supreme Court that held the Alaska Constitution's right to privacy protects an adult's ability to use and possess a small amount of marijuana in the home for personal use.[3] The Alaska Supreme Court thereby became the first—and only—U.S. state or federal court to announce a constitutional privacy right that protects some level of marijuana use and possession.[3]

Decriminalization (1982)[edit]

In 1982, following the Ravin decision, Alaska's legislature decriminalized possession of up to 4 ounces of cannabis in the home, or one ounce outside the home.[4]

Recriminalization (1990)[edit]

In 1990, Measure 2 to recriminalize cannabis passed with 54.3% of the vote. The measure imposed a penalty of up to 90 days in jail and a fine of up to $1000 for simple possession.[5]

Medical legalization (1998)[edit]

In 1998, Measure 8 to legalize the medical use of cannabis passed with 58.7% of the vote.[6] The measure allowed patients with a doctor's recommendation to possess up to an ounce of cannabis or grow six plants.[1]

Failed recreational legalization (2000)[edit]

In 2000, Measure 5 to legalize the recreational use of cannabis failed with 40.9% of the vote.[7]

Recriminalization struck down (2003)[edit]

Noy v. State is a case decided by the Alaska Court of Appeals in 2003. David S. Noy was convicted of possessing less than eight ounces of marijuana by a jury. However, in 1975, the Alaska Supreme Court ruled in Ravin v. State that possessing less than four ounces of marijuana in one's home is protected by the Alaska Constitution's privacy clause. The amount possessed being over four ounces was highly in question on appeal. Thus, the Alaska Court of Appeals overturned Noy's conviction and struck down the part of the law criminalizing possession of less than four ounces of marijuana.[8]

Failed recreational legalization (2004)[edit]

In 2004, Measure 2 to legalize the recreational use of cannabis failed with 44.3% of the vote.[9]

Recriminalization (2006)[edit]

The Alaska legislature passed a new law making possession of under one ounce a misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days in jail. Possession of one to four ounces was made a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail. Possession of over 4 ounces was made a felony. The measure was pushed by governor Frank Murkowski.[10]

Recreational legalization (2014)[edit]

Alaska-made cannabis concentrate

In 2014, Measure 2 to legalize the recreational use of cannabis passed with 53.2% of the vote.[11] The measure allowed adults age 21 and over to possess up to an ounce of cannabis and cultivate six plants, effective as of February 24, 2015.[12] It also allowed the state-regulated sale of cannabis in dispensaries, the first occurrence of which occurred on October 29, 2016.[13] The passage of Measure 2 made Alaska one of the first states to legalize recreational use and sale, preceded only by Colorado and Washington in 2012.


Portion of the vendor area at the High Times Alaska Cup cannabis festival and competition outside of Wasilla in 2018

The state of Alaska collected its first full month of cannabis tax proceeds in November 2016, raising $80,000 for the state; cannabis buds are taxed at $50/oz and stems and leaves at $15/oz.[14] The state reported FY 2017 marijuana tax revenue of $1,745,767 (cultivators only - not retail).[15] In December 2016 and January 2017, widespread supply shortages were reported, causing many cannabis shops to temporarily cease operations until inventory was restored.[16] In January 2017, Anchorage Assemblyman Forrest Dunbar proposed legislation banning cannabis stores from advertising discounts to active-duty military, who are prohibited by federal policy from consuming cannabis.[17]


  1. ^ a b Edge, Megan; Andrews, Laurel (September 28, 2016). "Timeline: Notable moments in 40 years of Alaska's history with marijuana". Anchorage Daily News. Retrieved February 8, 2018.
  2. ^ Anderson, Patrick (February 27, 1981). High In America: The True Story Behind NORML And The Politics Of Marijuana. The Viking Press. ISBN 978-0670119905.
  3. ^ a b Brandeis 2012, p. 175.
  4. ^ Matthew Lippman (August 22, 2013). Essential Criminal Law. SAGE Publications. pp. 298–. ISBN 978-1-4833-2447-0.
  5. ^ "Alaska Marijuana Criminalization Initiative, Measure 2 (1990)". Ballotpedia. Retrieved September 21, 2019.
  6. ^ "Alaska Medical Marijuana Act, Measure 8 (1998)". Ballotpedia. Retrieved September 21, 2019.
  7. ^ "Alaska Marijuana Decriminalization Initiative, Measure 5 (2000)". Ballotpedia. Retrieved September 21, 2019.
  8. ^ "Alaska Court Upholds Privacy Right to Smoke Marijuana in the Home". September 2, 2003. Archived from the original on September 23, 2015. Retrieved January 30, 2017.
  9. ^ "Alaska Legalize Marijuana Initiative, Measure 2 (2004)". Ballotpedia. Retrieved September 21, 2019.
  10. ^ Volz, Matt (June 6, 2006). "ACLU sues state on marijuana law". Juneau Empire. Archived from the original on February 9, 2018. Retrieved February 8, 2018.
  11. ^ "Alaska Marijuana Legalization, Ballot Measure 2 (2014)". Ballotpedia. Retrieved September 21, 2019.
  12. ^ AP February 24, 2015 (February 24, 2015). "Alaska becomes 3rd state with legal marijuana". Retrieved April 20, 2015.
  13. ^ Andrews, Laurel (October 29, 2016). "Marijuana milestone: Alaska's first pot shop opens to the public in Valdez". Anchorage Daily News. Retrieved September 21, 2019.
  14. ^ Laurel Andrews (January 3, 2017). "Alaska collects first full month of marijuana tax revenue". Alaskan Dispatch.
  15. ^ Revenue, Alaska Department of. "Alaska Department of Revenue - Tax Division". Archived from the original on October 28, 2017. Retrieved October 27, 2017.
  16. ^ Laurel Andrews (January 4, 2017). "Legal weed is hard to come by in Alaska". Alaskan Dispatch.
  17. ^ "Alaska Politician Proposes Ban On Marijuana Discounts For Active Military | Weed News". January 25, 2017. Retrieved January 30, 2017.


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