A formal debate over Ballot Measure 2 sponsored by the UAA Economics Club was held in the Business Education Building Oct. 29.
Ballot Measure 2 would obliterate criminal and civil penalties for people older than 21 to grow, use, sell or give away marijuana or other hemp products. The state government would not require a permit for personal growing or distribution, but would be allowed to regulate marijuana like tobacco and alcohol. The measure removes all state restrictions on prescription usage of marijuana, including use by children. It also allows laws limiting marijuana use in public places to maintain public health and safety.
Supporting the measure was Ken Jacobus, treasurer of Yes on 2. His opponent, Wev Shea, is a U.S. attorney. Edward Mesick, a member of the UAA Economics Club, mediated the debate.
Each debater was asked four questions and allowed a two-minute response, followed by a one-minute rebuttal from their opponent and 30 seconds to close their argument.
One of the largest merits of Ballot Measure 2 is that it reforms a currently failing system, Jacobus said in his opening statement.
“The bottom line is that Alaska’s marijuana policy is not working,” Jacobus said. “A new approach needs to be adopted.”
Jacobus said keeping marijuana out of the hands of children is the greatest failure of Alaska’s current policy.
“Marijuana is easier to obtain than alcohol or tobacco because alcohol and tobacco are regulated by the state,” Jacobus said. “Marijuana must be kept away from our youth. By taking it out of the illegal distribution system and regulating it, this can be better accomplished.”
Jacobus said regulation of marijuana by the state will help eliminate illegal underground marijuana markets and boost the state’s economy by bringing in money from marijuana taxes and reducing costs associated with prohibition. The state can use this money on ANWR and the natural gas pipeline.
Shea refuted the idea marijuana would benefit Alaska, stating marijuana never benefits anything or anyone.
“I’ll guarantee you that marijuana is not good for any one of you,” Shea said. “And the reason is that none of you know when you smoke it what’s in it.”
Shea said work in ANWR, on the natural gas pipeline or any job in Alaska would not be helped by the legalization of marijuana, but hindered by it.
“When you use alcohol, unless you grossly abuse it, it is out of your system fairly quickly,” Shea said. “Marijuana, if you use it, stays in your system for a very lengthy period of time. If we vote to legalize dope we might as well kiss the pipeline goodbye; kiss ANWR goodbye.”
Shea argued legalization would not keep the substance out of the hands of children because children look to their parents and older role models for guidance, and if the adult community is smoking marijuana, then the children will do so.
In his closing statement, Jacobus said Alaska is being a leader for the United States by trying new drug laws that could revolutionize America’s entire drug policy, but proper use is essential.
“The key is really responsible use and responsible education,” Jacobus said. “Don’t abuse the product.”
Shea said legalization would not provide a good image of Alaska as a leader in anything to the rest of the United States or the world, saying Alaska does not need to become the “drug haven of North America.”