ANCHORAGE, Alaska - A citizens' group hoping to make Alaska the third state in the nation to legalize recreational use of marijuana took a step closer today, submitting more than 46,000 signatures to the state election office.
If enough signatures are verified - they need about 30,000 qualified signatures - the question of whether to make pot legal in the nation's northernmost state will go before voters in the Aug. 19 primary. Signatures must come from at least 7 percent of voters in at least 30 House districts.
"It's clear that Alaskans are eager to have an opportunity to express their displeasure with the current system and make a change," said one of sponsors, Tim Hinterberger, a professor in the School of Medical Education at the University of Alaska Anchorage.
"I have a great feeling today," said another sponsor, Mary Reff, after she and other volunteers carried in 20 boxes of signatures to the state elections office in Anchorage.
Voters in Colorado and Washington state last year legalized marijuana, and the language of the Alaska initiative is similar to the Colorado measure.
"We have no reason to think our campaign will be any less successful," Hinterberger said.
State election officials have 60 days to accept or deny the initiative for the ballot, Alaska Division of Elections Director Gail Fenumiai said in an email to The Associated Press.
The state has a complicated relationship with marijuana.
The Alaska Supreme Court ruled in 1975 that banning home use and possession of small amounts of marijuana violated a constitutional right to privacy. Since then, activists and others have battled over the law and its implications.