My Turn: Somewhere between Reefer Madness and the Nirvana Network

  • By Carolyn Brown
  • Monday, November 9, 2015 1:01am
  • Opinion

With the passage of the Marijuana Initiative (Ballot 2) in November 2014, Alaskans participated in bringing to pass a panoply of possibilities and challenges that I believe will affect the people, families, businesses, economy and social structure of our state.

I’ve heard, “It’s a cash cow waiting to be milked to provide human kindness all over,” to “Dante’s Inferno has opened,” to “It’s the right thing to do.” Go figure. We are not exactly together on this. Maybe it’s because we don’t quite understand where folks are on either side of the divide.

There were 509,111 registered voters in the 2014 election. Interestingly, 44.84 percent of those registered did cast a vote. For the Marijuana Initiative, 43.9 percent of those registered did cast a vote (either yes or no). The statewide ‘yes’ vote to pass the initiative was 52.1 percent of those voting. Is that good or bad? That said, 116,803 Alaskans who voted determined the outcome for Ballot 2. That is 22.9 percent of all of the eligible Alaska voters. Noteworthy is that 55.16 percent of Alaska’s eligible voters did not cast a vote. Perhaps we really do get what we deserve — or do we?

The work began and continues. The new Alaska Administrative Code (3 AAC) was amended to become Chapter 306 as Regulation of Marijuana Industry. A reading and understanding of these pages is not for the faint of heart but it is definitely worth a read at

The major components of those regulations include nine articles:

• Licensing Fees

• Local Options

• Retail Marijuana Stores

• Marijuana Cultivation Facilities

• Marijuana Product Manufacturing Facilities

• Marijuana Testing Facilities

• Operating Requirements for all Marijuana Establishments

• Enforcement, Civil Penalties

• General Provisions

Now, if one chooses to get “into the weeds” (no pun intended) of each of these sections, there appears to be more to marijuana than just “regulation of marijuana”. Please consider:

• Health: Use by children, pregnant women and adolescents. Clean air ordinances. Toxicity. Overdose. Medical use. Emergency room visits. Co-admixture with alcohol, drugs and other substances. Medical and mental health facilities for treatment. Where is the oversight on this? You will recall that the City and Borough of Juneau has no public health powers.

• Education: Schools. Colleges. Community. Professionals. Media. Who will do this and who will pay?

• Law Enforcement/Judicial: Policy. Procedures. Testing. Identification of co-admixture of drugs/substances. Legal ramifications. Penalties.

• Public Safety: Police. Troopers. Emergency Medical Services. Fire Department. Driving. Flying. Boating. Citizen Safety.

• Fiduciary: Banking. Cash. Taxation. Revenues.

• Regulation: Ordinances. Licensure. Registration. Zoning. Oversight. Statistical accounting and reporting.

• Social: Black market. Apathy. Neglect. Drug admixture. Cruise ships. Violence.

There are balances to be brought to these issues. Neither bureaucracy, money, zealotry, apathy, denial, cognitive dissonance, education nor money can alone deal with all of these variables.

What may be a win-win for all will be the time-honored gift and decision of listening with the intent to hear. From this may come the possibility of trust and compromise so that we build a community of responsible caring for and participation with each other.

There just may be somewhere between reefer madness and the nirvana network after all.

• Carolyn Brown lives in Juneau.

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