Petitioners looking to let voters decide if pot should be legal in Alaska now have more than 44,000 signatures—about 15,000 more than necessary—nearly a month before the their Jan. 21 deadline.
A representative with the “Campaign to Regulate Marijuana” (CRM) said Wednesday petitioners have collected 44,845 signatures. State law requires 31,169 names for a petition to go before voters. Those working with the campaign say they’re working toward an internal goal of more than 45,000 signatures before they formally submit the petition.
The legalization effort proposes far more than simply flipping the switch on marijuana from illegal to legal: the petition includes a seven-page, near-complete package of legislation that lays out a suite of comprehensive new laws that would regulate the growing, processing, selling, and use of the drug in Alaska.
In addition to creating licensing and oversight for the cultivation and sale of the drug, the petition also suggests a tax of $50 per ounce at the retail level.
Anchorage police and Alaska State Troopers estimate the street value of one ounce of marijuana—roughly the weight of a pack of cigarettes—between $250 and $350 dollars in the Anchorage and Southcentral region. That would make the $50 tax roughly equal to 20 percent tax per ounce, should the petition be approved and enacted by voters.
Other states like Washington and Colorado have passed similar legislation. Legal retail sales of marijuana in Colorado are set to begin on Jan. 1. Petitioners in Alaska say they’ve worked with the D.C.-based Marijuana Policy Project to borrow from successful legalization efforts elsewhere in the U.S.
Mason Tvert, a communications director with MPP who worked closely with the Colorado legalization effort, said the laws laid out in the Alaska petition would put Alaska’s tax in line with how other states have decided to tax legal weed.
The Colorado legislature “initially enacted an excise tax of 15 percent on wholesale sales [of marijuana] covering cultivation and retail,” Tvert said. “In addition, they established a special sales tax of 10 percent at retail.” Tvert added that those taxes are all on top of state and local sales tax.
Language built into the Colorado law—also present in the Alaska petition—would allow local governments to implement additional taxes of their own; for example, the city of Denver plans to charge an additional 3.5 percent tax for pot sales in the city.
The Alaska petition also allows communities to forbid the sale of marijuana locally, a “local option” akin to towns forbidding the sale of alcohol.
The legal framework offered by the petition could be tweaked by legislators down the road, but first, petitioners looking to legalize marijuana will have to submit their signatures booklets for state approval by Jan. 21. If the 30,000 signatures are authenticated, the initiative will go before voters on the August 2014 ballot.