Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Alaskan Privacy

I've been a little fuzzy on the topic. But thanks to a reader, I've learned a bit.

Remember when marijuana used to be legal in Alaska? What ever happened to that?

Well here's the story, best I understand it.

In May, 1975, in Ravin v. State, the Alaska State Supreme Court ruled that possession of weed by an adult, at home (in small quantities) is protected under the a privacy clause of the state constitution.
It appears that the use of marijuana, as it is presently used in the United States today, does not constitute a public health problem of any significant dimension... It appears that effects of marijuana on the individual are not serious enough to justify widespread concern, at least as compared with the far more dangerous effects of alcohol, barbituates, and amphetamines.
The Alaska state troopers said the ruling was "horrendous" and vowed to keep enforcing drug laws under federal statutes.

Of course the sky didn't fall.

But in politically conservative Alaska, where alcoholism, "creeping" and incest are more major problems, the legislature re-outlawed marijuana in 2006. Of course you can't "outlaw" a supreme-court-decided right any more than you can legislate for slavery or against the First Amendment. Here's to the right of privacy! I wish it were in the Bill of Rights.

So more recently the 2006 Alaska law was appealed... but without a victim (has nobody in Alaska been arrested for such a crime?). It's a rare legal strategy, but one that makes sense to me. Why should you have to arrested before the court decides a law is unconstitutional? But no matter. The Alaska Supreme Court punted the decision on the grounds that it isn't "ripe." But regardless, the Ravin case decriminalizing marijuana still stands.

Scott Christiansen of the Anchorage Press writes:
The Alaska Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld the Ravin decision, even to the point of limiting a law passed by a vote of the people, instead of the state legislature. In a 2004 case, Noy v State, the court explained that even though ballot initiatives can make law, those laws are on par with laws made by the legislative branch and still subject to constitutional tests in court. (And a collective, “Well, duh” was heard throughout the north.)
[from Peter Moskos's Cop in the Hood]

1 comment:

  1. The explicit privacy clause in the Alaska constitution was relied on by the court in 1976.
    The right of privacy IS in the Bill of Rights, though not explicitly enumerated. But federal courts have not found the right to possess amounts for personal use in one's own home is included in this right. It should be included for the same reasons stated by the Alaska Supreme Court in 1976!


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