ACLU Files Lawsuit Challenging Alaska Recrim Law


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Oct 22, 2005
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Juneau, AK: The Alaska branch of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed suit this week in Superior Court to block the enforcement of a new state law criminalizing the possession of small amounts of cannabis in the privacy of one's home. The law, signed by the Governor last week, redefines marijuana possession of up to four ounces as a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail. Possession of greater quantities is now a felony.

The ACLU suit charges that the new law is unconstitutional because it violates the privacy clause of the Alaska constitution, which provides that "the right of the people to privacy is recognized and shall not be infringed." In a 1975 Alaska state Supreme Court ruling (Ravin v State), justices' determined that this provision encompassed the personal possession and ingestion of cannabis in the home.

Later court decisions defined the personal possession of cannabis as an amount up to four ounces.

The Alaska Supreme Court recently affirmed the Ravin decision in 2004.

"By imposing criminal liability for the use or possession of even small amounts of marijuana in the home, the marijuana prohibition statutes violate ... Alaskans' fundamental right to privacy," the ACLU suit contends. The suit seeks an immediate court order blocking enforcement of the law and an eventual ruling striking down the legislation as unconstitutional.

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