March 25, 2008
Juneau, Alaska - It has been 33 years since the Alaska Supreme Court ruled that adults have a right to possession of small amounts of marijuana in the home. Now the court is being asked to decide the matter again.
Oral arguments were made Thursday in a case stemming from the Legislature's decision in 2006 to recriminalize at-home use of marijuana.
The Alaska branch of the American Civil Liberties Union brought a lawsuit and a superior court judge struck down that law, based on the 1975 Supreme Court case known as Ravin v. Alaska.
The state's appeal is based on the stronger potency of marijuana today, as well as what Special Assistant Attorney General Dean Guaneli contends is more pervasive use of the drug.
"There was nothing in the Ravin opinion about use by pregnant women," Guaneli said. "But the Legislature in 2006 heard evidence, undisputed evidence, that the rate of use by pregnant women in Alaska was significantly higher than the national average, and in some areas of the state, and particularly with pregnant teenagers, the rate of use of marijuana is several times the national average."
Adam Wolf is an attorney for the ACLU.
"Nearly a generation later we see that Ravin has not caused mischief in this state, has not created a public health crisis," Wolf said. "Yet the Legislature has re-enacted the very statute that this court struck down in Ravin. And the state has not met its heavy burden to justify overturning of that precedent."
The Supreme Court could render its decision in a few months to a year.