A battle rages over Ballot Measure 2: It’s Alaska’s deciding factor for the future of marijuana.


Local pot advocates are battling to get the drug legalized for recreational use, but now a group opposing the ballot initiative has shown up to the fight. It’s prompted a challenge from people in favor of legalization.


Deborah Williams says the harms of legal marijuana in Alaska far outweigh the benefits.


“A big concern with health and safety,” Williams said, who is the former executive director of the Alaska Democratic Party and Alaska Conservation Foundation. She also spent a number of years with the America Lung Association in Alaska as an anti-smoking advocate.


That’s the reason she’s doing everything she can to make sure Ballot Measure 2 fails this August.


Just last week, Williams helped start the measure’s first official opposition group: “Big Marijuana. Big Mistake. Vote No On 2.”


“We’re going to do what we can to talk to people one-on-one, talk to groups who are available, talk to the media and just get the truth out about what’s in this initiative,” Williams said.


On Wednesday the campaign “Yes on 2” responded.


“We want to get out ahead of this. We want to get out in front. We want to make sure people are aware that these scare tactics, reefer madness, it doesn’t work anymore. It’s 2014,” said Chris Rempert with “Yes on 2.”


The group issued a challenge. It says if opponents can disprove that marijuana is safer than alcohol, it’ll donate more than $9,000 to anti-marijuana efforts.


“It doesn’t make sense that we would keep marijuana, a much safer substance, illegal and imprisoning Alaskans and Americans for its use,” Rempert said.


Williams calls the challenge a stunt.


“We anticipate lots of personal attacks and we know that’s smoke and mirrors on their part because they don’t want Alaskans to look at what this initiative really means, who is funding it and how adverse it would be for the state,” Williams said.


Pot proponents, however, hope the opposition will simply fade away as the public changes its attitude toward marijuana.


“Whatever the opposition is saying, it’s not going to be effective,” Rempert said.


Alaskans can cast their votes on Aug. 19.


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