MarijuanaAlaska is the latest state to join Washington and Colorado in the legal use of recreational marijuana. In November, a ballot initiative to make marijuana legal was voted on by Alaskan residents.

With the new law passed, people over the age of 21 are allowed to carry up to one ounce of marijuana in Alaska but in addition, they can grow at maximum six plants within the home. However, marijuana is only to be for recreational use and in the privacy of the home. At this time, using the drug in public and selling it remains a criminal act.

Although the law goes into effect immediately, more than likely it will be 2016 before retail cannabis shops open for business due to licensing requirements. Prior to that happening, officials with the state need to develop regulations for a new industry pertaining to the growth and selling of marijuana.

In Alaska, marijuana was decriminalized back in 1975 when it was ruled by the Alaska Supreme Court that privacy protections within the state’s Constitution allowed adults to use and possess a small quantity of the drug for personal use. However, that ruling conflicted with both state and federal laws. Throughout the past 40 years, the legal status of the drug in Alaska has been somewhat confusing.

Compared to the lower 49 states, marijuana use in Alaska is substantially higher. A study was conducted by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health from 2000 to 2011 that showed more than 64% of people living in Alaska between the ages of 18 and 60 had smoked marijuana at least one time. In addition, the state had the greatest number of users who grew their own marijuana during this period, at 4.1%.

A measure to legalize the recreational use of marijuana and set up retail shops for distribution was approved by voters in Oregon. However, this will not go into place until this coming July. As with Alaska, retailers will not be able to obtain licenses to sell marijuana until sometime in 2016.

Voters in the District of Columbia also voted to allow people over the age of 21 to possess and grow small amounts of marijuana although the selling of the drug is strictly prohibited. Support for the legalization of marijuana throughout the rest of the country is becoming more the norm as additional states are now becoming comfortable with the idea.

According to a 2013 Gallup Poll, 58% of American citizens agreed that marijuana for recreational use should be legal. Compared to other polls, this number is exceptionally high.

The Anchorage Police Department reminds people in the state of Alaska that before going out and buying marijuana, they need to become familiar with the “Know your Grow” awareness campaign. With this, individuals will know exactly what can and cannot be done with the drug in that state.

Information is also available on the FAQ page for the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Board and through “Highly Informed” published in this month’s Alaska Dispatch.