On Tuesday Alaska legalized the recreational use of marijuana, the third U.S. state to do so. However public consumption of the drug remains illegal.
Although you can now smoke weed legally in the state, that only applies to consumption behind closed doors. As a result law enforcement officers in Anchorage, Alaska’s largest city, will now be handing out $100 fines to anyone found smoking marijuana in public, writes Molly Dischner of the Associated Press.
Marijuana use legalized in private places
Alaska joins Washington state and Colorado in legalizing marijuana, marking the successful end of a campaign by libertarians, rugged individualists and small-government Republicans, whose coalition won a vote on the matter 53-47% last November.
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However the vote to legalize marijuana use by adults in private places left a lot of the details undefined, and lawmakers and regulators are doing their best to avoid confusion.
Although the initiative bans smoking in public, it does not provide a precise definition of what public means. Lawmakers then decided to defer judgment to the alcohol regulatory board, which had planned to meet early this Tuesday morning in order to provide an emergency response.
So far different definitions of smoking in public have been enforced in different areas of the state. Anchorage police chief Mark Mew claimed that the ban on smoking in public will be strictly enforced, and warned people not to smoke on their porches if they live next to a park.
Those in communities close to the North Pole will be able to smoke outside on private property so long as it is not a nuisance, said local officials.
Marijuana has long been a source of confusion for Alaskans. In 1975 the Alaska Supreme Court protected personal marijuana possession, and in 1998 an initiative legalized marijuana for medical purposes, but twice over that intervening period state lawmakers criminalized any possession, which left Alaskans in legal limbo.
The new law means that from Tuesday onward, Alaskans of legal age can keep, use, transport, grow and give away marijuana. A move towards regulating and taxing the marijuana market is not predicted to start until 2016.
A regulated market is expected in Alaska around the same time as Oregon, where legalization does not come into force until July 1.