Thursday, February 02, 2006

Up in Smoke

The Attorney General for the State of Alaska makes a good case for passage of House Bill 149.

Opportunity to toughen drug laws

By David Márquez

This week the Alaska House of Representatives has the opportunity to strengthen Alaska's laws by passing House Bill 149, which targets three drugs that pose particular dangers to Alaska's youth: methamphetamine, marijuana and anabolic steroids.

Methamphetamine, or meth, is extremely addictive and dangerous, and it's being made throughout Alaska. The key ingredient is the cold medication pseudophedrine.

Changing this cold pill into an addictive drug requires toxic chemicals such as acetone, iodine, phosphorous and ammonia, and the by-products of the cooking process are corrosive acids and poisonous and explosive gases.

Making meth is literally like making a time bomb. And it could be going on right next door to you.

Meth cookers have absolutely no regard for other people who might inhale the poisonous residues of their meth production or who might be burned by the acids and toxins created as part of the production of this drug. They have no regard for their own children, who often are living where the meth lab is located, so why should they have any regard for your children?

HB 149 would eliminate easy access to the raw materials used in meth labs. It also will increase penalties for making meth in buildings where children reside. HB 149 has an immediate effective date. Each day that goes by before this bill reaches the governor's desk is another opportunity for meth dealers to risk the health of all Alaskans.

The bill also makes it a crime to possess anabolic steroids that are used by professional athletes and, increasingly, by high school athletes. Steroid abuse has serious long-term health risks, and is especially dangerous for kids who too often look to the professionals as their role models.

Marijuana is the third drug covered under this bill. Marijuana users like to wrap themselves in the Alaska flag and proclaim that all they care about is the privacy of Alaskans. They say that anything adults do in their homes is OK, as long as it doesn't affect anyone else. That's all well and good, but let's put aside all the marijuana mythology and take a fresh look at some facts, and the constitution.

Alaska's Constitution specifically provides that we have a right to privacy, and the state's Supreme Court ruled in Ravin v. State that privacy in the home is particularly important.

The right to privacy, however, is not absolute. If there are good reasons to regulate conduct in the home, then the courts allow the Legislature to do that. After all, mere possession of child pornography in the home arguably hurts no one else, but it's still a crime. Anabolic steroids arguably hurt no one except the user, but no one is contending there is a constitutional right for adults to use steroids in the home.

Even with marijuana, the Supreme Court's Ravin decision left the door open for the Legislature to determine that there is new evidence about marijuana that justifies laws prohibiting use in the home.

Don't believe all the falsehoods about this bill: It does not change or lessen the right to privacy in Alaska — only the voters can do that by amending the constitution. Instead, this bill reflects the Legislature's judgment, after a careful look at the evidence, that there are serious problems with marijuana in Alaska, even in the home. To put it plainly, that's the Legislature's job.

Two of the many problems with marijuana involve kids and violence. Alaska high school students who use marijuana started, on average, at the age of 13. As is the case with cigarettes, kids are more likely to use marijuana if their parents use this drug.

An Alaska study shows that children of parents who use marijuana are four to five times more likely to use it themselves. And where do they get it? Studies show they often get it at home, or at a friend's home.

Marijuana was found in the urine of nearly 70 percent of adult male domestic violence abusers arrested in Anchorage, but only 5 percent of men arrested for other crimes.

Statisticians may not be able to conclude that marijuana causes violence, but there must be a reason why so many more domestic violence abusers use marijuana compared to other criminals. Fifteen percent of the defendants arrested in Anchorage for sexual assault used marijuana just before committing their assaults. Ten percent of their victims also used this drug.

In the final analysis, the courts will decide if the Legislature was correct in concluding that the evidence about today's marijuana is sufficient to get meet the constitutional standard. We have no doubt that the law will be upheld. The members of the Alaska Senate should be commended for sending a clear message about meth, marijuana and steroids. Now the members of the House have a similar opportunity.

David Márquez is the attorney general of Alaska.

However, in today's news we find this:

The Alaska House of Representatives on Wednesday rejected a bill that would make possession of small amounts of marijuana a crime.
Reading further, the ACLU gets a few words in.

"There were a lot of good reasons to vote against it," said Michael W. Macleod-Ball, executive director of the Alaska Civil Liberties Union, which opposes Murkowski's marijuana proposal.

Well what would you expect from a group that supported the free speech of NAMBLA.

Max Gruenberg came up with the most responsible statement.

"If we're dealing with something that has significant constitutional issues, we need to have some hearings on this and have some evidence so we can vote on it intelligently," said Rep. Max Gruenberg, D-Anchorage.

The Representatives might want to listen to family and child advocacy groups that know of infants that have had levels of THC in their blood because the parents are smoking dope in their resident with babies around.

Second Hand smoke is part of the equation. The ACLU needs to get a life. And the Ravin decision should be overturned.

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