Murky Weighs In on Marijuana Initiative: Clueless

You’d think that a former governor who presided over the most corrupt government in Alaska since statehood would stay home and write his memoirs or something. You’d think a former Governor whose own Chief of Staff served a prison sentence for illegal campaign contributions would thank his lucky stars that Chief of Staff didn’t tell the Feds everything he knew and would keep discretely quiet. You’d think a failed candidate who helped give us Sarah Palin would have the simple decency to maintain an embarrassed silence. You’d think the man who single-handedly killed a national bank and seriously wounded a regional Native corporation would just shut up. But we’re talking about Frank “the Bank” Murkowski. You remember. Murky.

Which explains why Murky has an opinion column in the Anchorage Dispatch News arguing against Marijuana legalization. Not to honestly address the issues; no, he’s there to demonstrate how clueless and out of touch our ex-governor really is. WC will parse his arguments to demonstrate his position.

For the life of me I can’t understand the rush to legalize marijuana in our state, as Ballot Measure 2 would do. It reminds me of the herd mentality of the lemmings stampeding off the cliff with little thought to the consequences.

Murky presumes that the original decision to criminalize dope made any kind of sense as a matter of public policy. There’s never been any credible evidence to support that claim. The Alaska Supreme Court, in Ravin v. State, concluded forty years ago that dope wasn’t harmful enough to criminalize, and held possession of small amounts of grass was a matter of privacy, that there was no legitimate basis for the State to regulate it. The “rush to legalize” has been under way in Alaska for 39 years. Unsurprisingly, Murky never mentions Ravin, so he creates the appearance of something that’s untrue and alarming.

The fact that Colorado and Washington state have recently legalized marijuana should give us pause to consider the impacts. We should wait and see how both the Colorado and Washington efforts unfold. There is no incentive to be among the first.

Sorry, Murky, Alaska is and always has been among the first in legalization and decriminalization of dope. Ravin was decided in 1975, 39 years ago.

Should the proposal become law, would it be beneficial to our citizenry, our youths and the quality of life? What will be the impact on rural Alaskans? These are just a few of the many unanswered questions before Alaskans as we prepare to vote.

WC doesn’t think that Alaska voters need you to remind them this is an important issue. But if Murky is going to ask the anti-legalization issues, shouldn’t he ask whether we should be clogging our prisons and wrecking lives by criminalizing sale of marijuana? The War on Drugs – at least the war on dope – has done immense, wholly unnecessary harm. Murky forgot to talk about that.

Why is the effort being initiated in Alaska? It is simply because Alaska is a cheap place to run an initiative campaign. It also has a very young population. Children and teens are especially vulnerable to potential harm from long-term pot use, and this experiment is not worth risking their futures.

At one level, you can blame the late Alaska lawyer, Irwin Ravin, who had the courage of his conviction. But in the bigger sense, Murky is demonstrating he failed to examine current events before opening his mouth. Three states and the District of Columbia will have legalization initiatives on their ballots in 2014. The Alaska effort is part of a national effort, and a comparatively small part. As for risking our children, they’re already doing that. Nationally, more than a third of kids admit to experimenting with dope.WC suspects Alaska kids may be even, er… higher.

Where is the Outside money coming from in support of this ballot initiative? The Marijuana Policy Project of Washington, D.C., and the Drug Policy Alliance of New York have supplied the bulk of the funding. Don’t be fooled — this is big business.

Oh, yes, the outsider boogeyman. WC will listen to this Boogeyman Argument when Murky criticizes the Carpetbagger’s outside dough, or even Senator Begich’s outside funds. Money in support of legalization (an in opposition) comes from Outside under the Willie Sutton Rule: that’s where the money is.

I believe the ballot process is flawed. If enough money can be raised outside the state to hire people to gather signatures, any issue can get on the ballot. The process circumvents the responsibility of legislators. Had the issue originated in our state Legislature, it would have failed overwhelmingly because every legislator would have to vote on the issue. The ballot initiative process allows any elected official to simply take a walk and avoid being held accountable. This is simply wrong. Alaskans need to know from each of their elected representatives, from the Legislature to the governor and the federal delegation, whether they support or oppose this important ballot measure. They need to respond with a simple yes or no answer.

Murky conflates three separate issues in this one paragraph. First, he complains that the ballot initiative process is flawed, that anyone can buy an initiative. Murky overlooks the 2004 amendments to the initiative process, which increased the signature requirement to 10% of those voting in the last election, and the distribution requirement to 3/4ths of Alaska’s 40 election districts. Few states have a more rigorous initiative process.

Murky also criticizes the initiative process as removing legislative accountability. That’s frightening in a former U.S. Senator and Governor; the process is embedded in the Alaska Constitution, Article XI. The Legislature has it in its power to shortcut an initiative: it just needs to enact something similar. What Murky is doing is arguing against the checks and balances written into the Alaska Constitution by the Alaska Constitutional. Convention. And the delegates there were a whole lot brighter than Murky.

Finally, the debate about citizen legation is at least as old as Madison versus Hamilton. Welcome to democracy, Murky. Sorry you don’t like it.

If Ballot Measure 2 passes, it would establish a dual system. It would be unlawful to buy or sell marijuana under federal law but permissible under state law. Such an inconsistency has the federal government telling us one thing and the state government telling us another. Further, the enforcement of contradictory marijuana regulations would be very difficult for those in law enforcement. I would urge all Alaskans to read the statement from the Alaska Peace Officers Association, which details the difficulties associated with maintaining law and order.

A classic straw man argument.1 The feds have reached an accommodation with both Washington and Colorado. There is no reason to think the feds won’t do so in Alaska when Alaska adopts its initiative. The APOA statement Murky mentions is perfunctory and trots out the same old, rebutted arguments. Besides, WC is opposed to cops deciding what the criminal laws will be.

It would also make hiring Alaskans for jobs that require drug screening more difficult, and may complicate insurance payouts if an accident happens. Jim Jansen of Lynden Transport and Alaska Marine Lines indicated to me that his businesses require zero tolerance, and he sees legalization as a major headache.

Poppycock. Alcohol is legal and employers manage its greater risks. Employers will still be able to screen for THC. Another straw man argument. Pure alarmist nonsense.

Our opponents believe that with access to Outside funds they can buy our votes on Ballot Meaure 2. Let’s tell them that Alaska’s quality of life is not for sale. We have defeated this issue once and we can do it again. Big Marijuana, Big Mistake for Alaska.

The Outsider Boogeyman again; see above. What Murky is arguing, and lacks the moral character to say, is let’s continue jailing and wrecking the lives of hundreds of Alaskans each year who are caught with 4 ounces of grass. Let’s continue to fill the prisons of Alaska, at taxpayer expense, with folks trafficking in a substance safer than alcohol with zero proven medical harms. We don’t have to continue making the same mistake over and over.

WC doesn’t use marijuana and hasn’t since he was a teenager. But the criminalization of marijuana is based on hysteria and bad science. It’s time to be sensible. Murky is being stupid again. Vote “Yes” on Ballot Measure 2.

  1. Somehow, in his conscientious efforts to address logical fallacies, WC has overlooked the straw man fallacy. That will have to get corrected sometime soon.