• Forecast
  • News Tip
  • Categories
Temperature Precipitation
Estimated read time
2m 49s

Medical patient’s pot predicament raises questions about legalization

By Shannon Ballard 7:32 PM January 1, 2014

Recreational marijuana: Is Alaska next to legalize?

ANCHORAGE – Sixty-year-old Julie is a cancer patient.

She is terrified. Not of an uncertain future, but just to show her face.

“I have a lot riding on this,” she said. “I could get cut off for medical or whatever.”

Julie uses cannabis every day to help manage the excruciating pain in her lungs.

“I can feel the difference each day, I have more energy,” she said.

Julie is one of hundreds of Alaskans with a medical marijuana card, but who have no place to legally buy the drug.

There are no dispensaries in Alaska. And given only months to live, she says she doesn’t have time to grow her own plants.

This predicament is forcing Julie and other medical marijuana users to get it elsewhere, such as Outside or illicit markets.

And it’s expensive — up to $400 an ounce, according to Anchorage police.

“I’m in debt. I don’t care,” she said. “I need to do what I need to do, and if the government, if they were to get cancer, I think they’d step on the bandwagon.”

A group of concerned Alaskans is trying to help people like Julie come out from the shadows and get marijuana legally.

Bill Porter is one of three sponsors behind the latest initiative to treat pot the same as alcohol, reducing the cost of marijuana for cancer patients and recreational users.

“Washington is pretty close to here and we’re all paying close attention,” Porter said. “I think we have a model and I think it will be easier to execute once we’ve passed it then it would have been if we were the first state.”

The Marijuana Policy Project has dished out thousands of dollars to fund efforts to get the initiative on the primary ballot next August. But to make that happen they need signatures.

Across the state are paid petitioners like Harley Brown.

“I like to see things on the ballot,” Brown said. “I do believe in ballot access. We have a right to say no or yes to whatever goes on the ballot. You’re not saying you agree with anything that’s on here. You’re just saying put it on the ballot so I can vote for it.”

In a six-hour day, Brown says he collects around a hundred signatures.

To get recreational marijuana on the ballot, backers will need at least 30,00 signatures. A goal they’ve met, but they’re not stopping.

“We’re tying to gather 45,000 signatures to make sure there are 30,000 good ones,” Porter said.

Addiction counselor Kurtis Walton says while he supports medical marijuana, when it comes to recreational use, he won’t vote to legalize it.

“There’s already enough traffic problems, deaths and injuries up here because of just alcohol alone. Do we need to add another element to our public safety?” Walton asks.

Julie obviously disagrees. She was paying hundreds of dollars each week just for small amounts of hemp oil to treat her pain. It was costing her too much and she had to stop.

The price of marijuana in Alaska is inflated with risk. In Colorado and Washington where distribution is legal, the medical marijuana would cost a fraction of what Julie pays.

Julie wants the initiative passed, making recreational use legal and the medical marijuana products she relies on more accessible and more affordable.

Latest Stories

  • News

    BioBlitz takes scientific snapshot of Arctic wildlife

    by Heather Hintze on May 23, 22:56

    The National Park Service celebrated its 100-year anniversary by holding BioBlitzes around the country. For the community of Anaktuvuk Pass on the North Slope, it was their first chance to hold an event like this in the Gates of the Arctic National Park. A BioBlitz is basically a scavenger hunt for scientists. “One of the main […]

  • Politics

    Special session off to sluggish start: Lawmakers still stuck on oil tax credits

    by Liz Raines on May 23, 22:44

    The first day of the special legislative session came and went, with legislators working less than two hours. The House and Senate gaveled in for brief floor sessions, but neither body held a single hearing. Last week, controversy over oil tax credit reform kept lawmakers from finding a compromise on a state operating budget before […]

  • Lifestyle

    Alaska woman invents special coat to protect small pets from eagles

    by Bonney Bowman on May 23, 21:44

    When a pair of eagles nested in Janet Wass’s former backyard, she wanted something to keep her small dog, Juju, safe. She did some research and “My Invisible Pet” was born. Wass made Juju a dog coat out of shiny, reflective material. The coat has a light on the back with a bright beam. “It […]

  • News

    Wasilla boy wins 3-wheeled bike, new sense of independence

    by Shannon Ballard on May 23, 20:22

    Riding a bike is a treasured childhood experience, but sadly, many children with special needs miss out. An eight-year-old Wasilla boy was one of them until recently. Eric Edwards was born with cocaine in his system and later diagnosed with cerebral palsy and other movement disorders that affect his ability to stand, sit and speak. He went […]

  • News

    Providence hospital to expand emergency department for children

    by Lauren Maxwell on May 23, 20:00

    Providence Alaska Medical Center has received permission from the state to add 13 new treatment rooms to its emergency department, raising the number of rooms from 37 to 50, including two trauma rooms. Providence CEO Dr. Richard Mandsager said 10 of the 13 rooms will be devoted to a new pediatric area that will focus on children […]

  • Lifestyle

    Alaska villages compete for energy project funding

    by Alexis Fernandez on May 23, 19:26

    Rural Alaska villages are competing for funding to pay for projects that will bring down energy costs in their communities. The competition launched in January, and is part of a $4 million grant awarded by the U.S. Deptartment of Energy (DOE) to rural Alaska for energy projects. A total of 67 communities applied for the […]

  • Lifestyle

    What does it take to garden in the Arctic?

    by Heather Hintze on May 23, 18:53

    The ground in Anaktuvuk pass has barely thawed but Casey Edwards is ready to get her plants in the ground. “Last year I had way too many. I was super ambitious,” Edwards laughed. “This year we’re just sticking to cucumber, cabbage, squash.” This is just her second year testing out her green thumb, seeing what […]

  • News

    BP plans to sell Midtown Anchorage office building

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on May 23, 17:56

    A BP spokesperson says the company has decided to sell its property on the corner of Benson Boulevard and Seward Highway and lease office space from the new owner. “This is a real estate transaction under which we become tenants rather than owners of the office building,” the spokesperson said, explaining the company would remain […]