Alaska could become the third state in the nation to allow the production, sale and use of recreational marijuana.
State officials have validated enough signatures to qualify a legalization proposal for the primary election ballot in August. The measure would allow adults 21 and over to purchase cannabis from state-licensed shops or grow their own, and the state would levy an excise tax on all sales.
So what are the chances of passage? Very good at this point: A poll released this week found that 55% of voters support legalization vs. 39% who are opposed.
Voters in Alaska legalized medical marijuana in 1998 by a wide margin, though the state has never approved the sale of cannabis through dispensaries. Residents then shot down proposals to legalize marijuana for recreational use in 2000 and again in 2004, when the measure lost by 11 percentage points.
However, a lot has changed since then. Momentum is building across the country for relaxed marijuana laws. The fact that Colorado and Washington State legalized recreational cannabis could also help tip the scales in Alaska this time around.
With a total population of just over 700,000, the Alaska marijuana market would be small – possibly in the tens of millions of dollars vs. the hundreds of millions expected this year in Colorado and Washington State. But it would be a huge symbolic win for the industry and fuel recreational marijuana’s momentum.