A Ketchikan hearing on Proposition 2, a ballot measure that seeks to legalize marijuana, was well-attended Thursday. About two-dozen local residents were there, and comments reflected the statewide debate with opinions on both sides of the issue.
The hearing on Prop 2 started with presentations from state groups that support and oppose the measure.
Chris Rempert spoke on behalf of the sponsors, and said the proposition would provide a simpler approach to marijuana. He said a regulatory board would come up with rules for marijuana sales in Alaska; child-friendly marijuana-based products and/or marketing could be limited; and local communities could ban commercial sales of marijuana.
“We know that marijuana is already here,” he said. “We have the highest rates of use in the country with over 100,000 Alaskans currently using marijuana. We’re not deciding about whether to allow marijuana into Alaska. We know it’s here. We’re just talking about who should be managing this. Do we want the criminal underground market to continue managing this multi-million-dollar industry, or do we want to put it in the hands of responsible taxpaying businesses and into the hands of state regulators.”
Kristina Woolston spoke for the opposition. She takes issue with the claim that candy-type products could be limited. Woolston said the ballot measure was based on the recently passed Colorado law that legalizes marijuana. That state has stores that sell marijuana-laced products and concentrates.
“Marijuana users have abnormal brain structures and poor memory,” she said. “It’s linked to brain abnormalities in students. It can lead up to an 8-point-drop in IQ. I think anything that is intended to be mind-altering – which is THC – I think it’s disingenuous and dishonest to say it doesn’t somehow affect us.”
About an hour into the hearing, the floor opened up to public testimony. The first person who came to the lectern was Dave Rayner, who said he survived cancer treatment with the help of marijuana.
“Medical marijuana was a godsend. We need to see an end to this prohibition of marijuana,” he said. “It should be available to anybody. I’m a believer in the philosophy of Thomas Pain that less government is more better. That’s to paraphrase him; I don’t know the exact quote.”
Lynda Adams spoke next, and said she opposes the legalization of marijuana. She said marijuana has changed significantly over the years, and is more potent with many highly concentrated products made from THC, which is the active component in marijuana.
“Colorado is having a tough time of people driving under the influence with no clear indicator to determine impairment,” she said. “Edibles and consumables are also a problem. Children are eating marijuana-laced gummy bears, chocolate bars, lollipops, ice cream bars, getting ill and going to the emergency room.”
Five more local residents gave opinions on the topic, with three opposing legalization and two in favor.
The hearing is one of three in Ketchikan this week focusing on the three propositions that will be on the Nov. 4 general election ballot.