One Toke Over the Line, Sweet Jesus


Demon Weed for Sale in Alaska

Demon Weed for Sale in Alaska

One toke over the line sweet Jesus
One toke over the line
Sittin’ downtown in a railway station
One toke over the line

– Brewer & Shipley, “One Toke Over the Line,” 1970

So Brewer and Shipley were right?1 Alaska has legalized marijuana. Dope got more votes, 142.552, than any statewide candidate, more than Captain Zero, the Carpetbagger or even the Dope himself, Rep. Don Dipshit Young.

Of course, this isn’t the first time Alaska has legalized grass. In the seminal Alaska case on privacy, Ravin v. State, the Alaska Supreme Court clear back in 1975 determined that the Alaska Constitution’s right to privacy protected an adult’s ability to possess and use a small amount of marijuana in their home for personal purposes. 

Then in 1990, a citizen initiative re-criminalized marijuana. (Never expect consistency fro Alaska voters.) But citizen legislation has to pass muster under the Alaska Constitution, just like regular legislation. The Alaska Court of Appeals threw out most of the initiative in 2003 in Noy v. State. Possession of small quantities of dope was mostly legal again.

The Alaska Legislature flirted with criminalization again in the last decade, but never went further than setting limits on how much grass a private citizen could have under Ravin.

By contrast, the sale of marijuana has always been unlawful in Alaska. The question of how you could acquire that legal amount of pot was never answered.

Awaitin’ for the train that goes home, sweet Mary
Hopin’ that the train is on time
Sittin’ downtown in a railway station
One toke over the line

– Brewer & Shipley, “One Toke Over the Line,” 1970

Alaska’s paranoia about Demon Weed has reached a nadir and, to law enforcement’s horror, the voters have followed Colorado and Washington in establishing a regulatory scheme for growing, shipping, selling and possessing marijuana. So for the next two years, at a minimum, Alaska is at least one toke over the line. After two years, Alaska law permits the Alaska Legislature to fiddle with or even repeal citizen initiatives. You know, like the cruise line regulations. Or aerial wolf-hunting. The Mrs. Grundys in Alaska have always have more influence on the moral rectitude of individual legislators and legislation than the Great Unwashed Electorate itself. That’s what the abortion BUCIP is all about.2

The Federal government, of course, has some cogent points to make about federal law. There is such a thing as the Supremacy Clause. Presumably, once Attorney General Mike Geraghty gets over the various shocks (or the Walker-Mallott AG) – someone will negotiate an agreement with Federal law enforcement like Colorado‘s.

One toke over the line
One toke, one toke over the line

For any kind of prohibition to work in America, the public must be convinced that the hazards of the prohibited substance justify the restrictions on liberty that the prohibition imposes. The evidence that marijuana meets that standard is laughable. Worse, the prohibition laws have been used selectively, not just in arrests but in criminal sentences. Maybe Alaska’s legalization of cannabis is best seen as a small part of the gradual admission that the prohibition effort was a stupid mistake from the start.

A special note to Alaskans: don’t try this at home before January 1.

A special note to non-Alaskans: unless you live in Washington, Oregon or Colorado, aor maybe Washington, D.C., don’t try this at home.


  1. One of WC’s correspondents noted that arch-conservative Lawrence Welk once had “One Toke Over the Line” performed on his show. It’s true. In 1971 the song was sung on the Lawrence Welk Show by the wholesome looking Gail Farrell and Dick Dale. Perhaps they had no idea what a toke was. Welk, at the conclusion of the performance, said, without any hint of humor, “There you’ve heard a modern spiritual by Gail and Dale.” The video clip has made it to YouTube, in fact. For WC, this may explain a great deal about Lawrence Welk. 
  2. BUCIP: Big, Ugly, Complicated, Intractable Problem. One that has usually been around for a long time. 
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2 thoughts on “One Toke Over the Line, Sweet Jesus

  1. I think Brewer and Shipley performed for the Peace Officer Association, a few years ago. Always thought that was a interesting choice, because of their song you referenced.

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