Alaska marijuana initiative likely to fail according to exit polls

Kristin Gustafson

For more than a decade, Alaskans put marijuana legislation to a citizen vote. The year 2000 is no exception.
But this year, it appears as though voters rejected the legislation put before them that would have made sweeping changes as to how Alaskans treat marijuana and hemp with laws and regulations
“If this (marijuana referendum) passes, we are going to have a real mess on our hands. This will be the dope capitol of North America,” Wev Shea, the former U.S. attorney for the District of Alaska.
As of 11:30 p.m., CNN exit polls showed the initiative, one of two measures before Alaskan voters, losing by 58 percent to 42 percent.
If voters in this northwestern frontier state defy exit polls, Ballot Measure No. 5 would do away with civil and criminal penalties for adults who use marijuana or other hemp products.
Marijuana would be regulated like an alcoholic beverage and doctors could prescribe it as a drug under the measure. The bill would allow for laws limiting marijuana use in some cases to protect public safety. It also grants amnesty to persons convicted in the past of marijuana crimes.
Younger voters, aged 18-to 29-years-old, favored the Hemp-Marijuana bill according to CNN exit polls from 578 Alaska respondents. The majority of voters from every other, and older, age group of voters opposed the measure.
Democrats tended to favor the ballot measure by 54 percent to 46 percent, according to the CNN exit poll. However, Republicans opposed it by 72 percent to 28 percent, as did Independents by 55 percent to 45 percent.
However, if money spent on the race determined the outcome, the measure would have passed.
According to the Anchorage Daily News, the four Alaska campaigns working to legalize marijuana brought in contributions totalling more than $160,000 as of mid-October. These dollars compared to the less than $3,000 raised by the only registered opposition fighting the marijuana-hemp initiative.
Contributions were not just limited to Alaska, as outside special interest groups or interested individuals from places such as San Francisco and Pennsylvania sent checks to the campaigns.
In 1998, Alaskans decided 59 percent to 41 percent to legalize medicinal marijuana for sick people.
Other National Initiatives
Colorado voters approved a marijuana initiative by 53 percent, with 91 percent of election results in. This measure legalizes the drug for medicinal use.
Voters in this state — which received national attention following the Columbine shootings a year and a half ago — overwhelmingly approved restricting firearm use with 70 percent voting for background checks at gun shows.
In Nebraska, 71 percent of voters approved a measure prohibiting same-sex marriage (with 79 percent reporting).
And 70 percent of Californians gave a nod to school-voucher programs (with 44 percent in).
Nationally 14 states considered 25 ballot initiatives this election.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.