Blogs > Liberty and Power > Murkowski's Folly

Aug 26, 2006 9:53 pm

Murkowski's Folly

Reuters news agency has reported that Alaska governor Frank Murkowski finished third in the state’s Republican primary with a mere 19 percent of the vote. The article stated that “Murkowski, who is the first Alaska governor to lose in the primary election since Democrat Bill Sheffield was defeated in 1986, angered Alaskans by appointing his daughter to fill out his U.S. Senate term, buying a state jet for his personal use and other actions that were considered ham-fisted.”

I submit that one of these other actions was Murkowski’s unwarranted attack on Alaska’s marijuana smokers. In 2004 the Alaska Supreme Court ruled that state constitution’s privacy provisions protected possession of up to four ounces of marijuana by private citizens for personal use. The governor made the recriminalization of marijuana one of his primary goals. Despite the facts that polling showed 56 percent of Alaskans supported the legality of the possession of small amounts of marijuana and that the state’s House of Representatives initially rejected anti-marijuana legislation Murkowski managed to steamroll a bill into law.

On June 2nd of this year he proudly signed the measure at the Woodland Park Boys and Girls Club touting its benefits for Alaska’s youth. Some viewed Murkowski’s pride of accomplishment as yet another sign of his arrogance. The Anchorage Daily News published a letter to the editor by Jolene Brown in which she asked “Why is this act such a sterling example of the governor's arrogance? Because by railroading that law through the Legislature and ultimately signing it, he showed contempt for the Legislature, the Alaska Supreme Court and most especially his constituency.” She also pointed out that in 1972 when the privacy amendment was added to the Alaska Constitution this action had the support of 86 percent of the voters.

In the beginning of July the governor’s crusade went for naught when Juneau Superior Court Judge Patricia Collins sided with the ACLU and struck down the new marijuana provisions. Michael Macleod-Ball, Executive Director of the ACLU of Alaska asserted that “Throughout this process – both before the Legislature and now in court – the battle has been to reject high pressure political tactics and preserve an individual’s right to keep the state out of one’s home in the absence of sufficient justification. Despite the state’s unfounded claims to the contrary, the best scientists in the country say that marijuana is no more dangerous today than in 1975. The state can’t create the justification for restricting a fundamental right out of whole cloth.”

While it is difficult to determine just how much of a role Murkowski’s anti-marijuana campaign played in his astonishingly poor showing at the polls, in light of his other voter alienating actions, it is clear, however, that it did not help. One can only hope that other politicians will take note.

Cross posted on The Trebach Report

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Jonathan Dresner - 8/27/2006

Have either of the leading candidates against him made relegalization an issue? If so, I'd be more inclined to agree that it's an important part the loss.