Weed

Oscar Emperador, right, voiced his opposition to legalizing pot in Alaska. "Where the spirit?" he said. At left, Pedro Talaroc was in silent agreement with Emperador. (Peter J. Mladineo photo)

If an informal sampling of opinions around town is any indicator, Kodiakans are almost dead-set against the stateʼs marijuana initiative that would make pot legal in November.

The Alaska Marijuana Legalization Measure is on the ballot on Nov. 4. If voters approve it, it will allow people age 21 and older to posses up to 1 ounce of marijuana and up to six plants. It will also make the manufacture, sale, and possession of pot paraphernalia legal.

The law would also create marijuana retail stores, marijuana cultivation facilities, marijuana infused-product manufacturers, and marijuana testing facilities. It would also allow localities to ban marijuana establishments — an interesting loophole for Kodiak — but it would not allow a municipality not to prohibit private possession and home cultivation.

The billʼs opponents think the wording of law will create a pot-drenched Alaska. Deborah Williams, Deputy Treasurer of an advocacy group Big Marijuana, Big Mistake, Vote No on 2 thinks the billʼs wording could create a marijuana monster in Alaska. “The initiative is about the commercialization, industrialization, and advertising of marijuana and marijuana products. And it is extreme.”

Itsʼ proponents say that legalized pot in Alaska is “inevitable,” since it is already partially decriminalized in the state.

What Kodiakans think

The Kodiak Daily Mirror sent its new editor around town on Thursday to collect opinions from passersby on the coming ballot initiative.

The results were a resounding “no,” — more than 90 percent of those interviewed were against it — despite the fact that most statewide polls slightly tilt towards “yes.”

“I donʼt think itʼs a good idea to make it legal here. This place is kind of inflicted with that now,” said Oscar Emperado, 50.

In fact, Emperado predicts Alaska stands to lose some of its character if the initiative succeeds. “Itʼs going to get worse. It is not going to be Alaska anymore. Itʼs not going to be Kodiak anymore... Whereʼs the spirit?”

Tommy Johnson, a self-employed 33-year-old echoed that sentiment. “Iʼll probably vote against it. People say theyʼd rather have weed around than all the heroin and meth and stuff. But I donʼt know... The old-timers will probably be against it and all the younger new voters will probably be for it,” he said.

An older interviewee conceded he was not for or against the ballot, but was concerned about potʼs use in the workplace.

“You ever been around anybody that was stoned you know that they lose their physical coordination,” he said. “Iʼm going to tell you that it is not a good idea to run machinery while stoned.”

Matters of Faith and Commerce

For most of the people interviewed for this story, the ballot is a philosophical matter — one that betokens alarm at Kodiakʼs already present problems with drugs and alcohol.

Daniels, 64, camped out by SunʼAq Tribal Center, looks on the issue more as a matter of faith.

“I donʼt have any belief in marijuana. I wonʼt vote for it,” he said.

Dana Lynch, a 62-year-old from Fairbanks said he never used the drug and knew of its medicinal benefits, but was still against it. “We have enough problems out there with alcohol and other items.”

Another Kodiakan held a similar sentiment. “Iʼm not going to support it. My feeling is, I wish they would even ban booze. We have enough trouble with alcohol let alone invite that stuff,” he said.

In fact, no one interviewed for this story admitted to be an active marijuana user.

Don Erbey, 53, a federal worker and pilot from Palmer, thinks the emphasis should be on other applications for marijuana. “There are a lot of good things that can come from it... The Navy has to buy hemp rope from foreign countries because we canʼt grow it here. If youʼre going to smoke dope, smoke dope. But there are a lot of other uses for it too.”

Hair stylist Chrisalyn Hoen, 45, was more upbeat about the possibility of legal pot -- especially when it comes to potʼs commercial potential.

“Youʼd probably be making a mint... Look at the revenue of liquor sales here,” she said. “People could go to a coffee shop and buy their different types of marijuana they want to smoke and itʼs going to be the busiest place in town.”

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