Alaska Rep. Don Young speaks during an interview at the Juneau Empire on Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2018.

Alaska Rep. Don Young speaks during an interview at the Juneau Empire on Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2018.

Rep. Don Young introduces bill to legalize cannabis

The bill has bipartisan support.

Alaska Republican U.S. Rep. Don Young has teamed up with Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, to introduce a bill that would remove cannabis from the list of federally controlled substances, according to a press release from Young’s office.

“I am a passionate supporter of a states’ rights approach to cannabis policy,” Young states in the release. “For too long, the Federal government has stood in the way of states that have acted to set their own marijuana policy, and it is long past time Congress modernized these outdated laws.”

Alaska voters passed an initiative to legalize the cannabis industry in 2014. In Hawaii, only medicinal marijuana is legal.

Young is the co-founder of the bipartisan Cannabis Caucus in Congress. This bill he and Gabbard put forth is called “Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2019.”

According to the release, the bipartisan duo also introduced the Marijuana Data Collection Act of 2019 to launch a study on the effects of legalized cannabis use for medicinal and recreational marijuana purposes. Areas of focus would include state revenues, public health, criminal justice and employment.

[Controversial marijuana board appointee meets resistance in confirmation hearing]

Marijuana has been illegal at the federal level since the Controlled Substances Act was passed in 1970. However, possession of small amounts of marijuana has been legal in Alaska — off and on, since 1975 — after an Alaska Supreme Court decision in Ravin v. State. The landmark Alaska Supreme Court opinion cited the Alaska Constitution’s right to privacy clause as reasoning for Alaskans’ right to posess marijuana.

“Since Alaska legalized marijuana, I have heard from many constituents — including small business owners — who have been impacted by archaic Federal marijuana policy that criminalizes them for selling marijuana-derived products otherwise legal under state law. Additionally, our nation’s prisons are overcrowded with non-violent offenders who too frequently have their lives ruined by harmful and outdated policies.”

The likelihood of Congress ending the prohibition on cannabis is difficult to determine, though one thing is certain. Americans are fare more open to the idea of legal marijuana than they used to be. A 2018 Pew Research poll showed 62 percent of Americans saying marijuana use should be legal. A 2000 Pew Research poll showd only 31 percent of Americans favored cannabis legalization.

• Contact reporter Kevin Baird at 523-2258 or Follow him on Twitter at @alaska_kev.

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