After years of debate — and decades of semi-legal status — Alaskans will finally be able to light up legally. On Tuesday, voters approved Ballot Measure 2, an initiative legalizing recreational marijuana in Alaska, by about 52 percent in favor to 48 percent opposed, with 100 percent of the state’s precincts reporting.
With the vote, Alaska joins Washington, Colorado and Oregon — the latter of which also approved a similar initiative Tuesday — as the first states in the country to legalize pot. Washington and Colorado approved their own initiatives in 2012.
The initiative will not become law until 90 days after the election is certified, which is expected to be in late November. Per the law, the state can then create a marijuana control board — expected to be housed under the Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development. That group will then have nine months to craft regulations dealing with how marijuana businesses will operate.
The initiative was years in the making. Alaska voters considered similar measures in 2000 and 2004. Both failed, though each indicated a measure of support for legalization. Measure 5 in 2000 took 40.9 percent of the vote; Ballot Measure 2 in 2004 gained a few more points, with 44 percent of the electorate voting in favor of it.
Supporters expressed relief Tuesday as results streamed in.
“It looks good for us, but there are still a lot of votes to be counted” said Taylor Bickford, spokesman for the pro-legalization Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in Alaska, as the results ticked up to 44 percent of precincts reporting Tuesday evening.
But by 2 a.m. Wednesday, with all precincts reporting, the pro-legalization crowd was declaring victory.