JUNEAU, Alaska (KTUU) — An unusual combination of supporters of marijuana legalization and of states' rights led to unanimous approval Monday of a legislative resolution demanding the federal government back down on enforcing U.S. pot laws in Alaska.
The resolution, backed by House majority sponsors and minority speechmakers, passed 38-0, with two excused absences. It followed calls by Alaska’s congressional delegation for the administration to respect the will of Alaska voters when they legalized marijuana in 2014.
The measure, which has no force of law, but demonstrates the will of the Legislature, advanced to the Senate for consideration.
The resolution was authored by Rep. David Guttenberg, D-Fairbanks, who said it was made necessary by Attorney General Jeff Sessions' decision on Jan. 4 to rescind the Obama administration policy to allow states to regulate marijuana under their own legalization or medical-use rules.
Sessions said the so-called Cole memorandum “undermines the rule of law.”
“The Cole Memo recognized that there’s a growing conflict between states that have legalized marijuana and the federal government,” Guttenberg said on the House floor. “Unfortunately, this administration rescinded that memo.”
Added Rep. Chuck Kopp, R-Anchorage, a retired policeman: “This resolution is not about which side of the vote you were on on the recent initiative legalizing personal use.”
Federal regulation of banking and its listing of marijuana as a “Schedule I” drug with heroin, LSD and ecstasy were cited by Guttenberg as reasons to support the resolution. Banking rules that make it difficult for marijuana businesses and the classification scheme have also been opposed by Alaska’s delegation in Congress.
In February, the Senate put off a vote on a “sense of the senate” resolution introduced on the floor by the minority leader there, Sen. Berta Gardner, D-Anchorage, that criticized Session’s decision. Gardner’s resolution remains tabled, but the House resolution is a more formal expression that will likely go through at least one Senate committee.
After her measure was tabled, Gardner said she was “disappointed” that the Senate majority failed to take a stand.
Guttenberg said nine states including Alaska allow recreational use of marijuana and another 28 allow it for medical purposes.