Alaska has had a reputation for hard drinking and the problems that come along with it for decades. The state has one of the highest rates in per capita alcohol consumption in the country. It is near twice the national average, with over 30% of adults reporting that they struggle with binge drinking or alcoholism. A plethora of crimes are linked to the widespread alcoholism. Violent crimes, suicide, drunk driving and sexual abuse all have ties to the state’s struggle with beer, wine and liquor. Alcohol abuse is nothing new to the largest state in the country since its early days drinking culture has been mirrored by efforts to lower abuse rates. Prohibition laws used to be quite prevalent in the state, they were also often ignored by government and citizens alike.
Alaskan Natives make up just 15% of the state’s total population but have disproportionately high rates of alcoholism and heavy drinking amongst US residents. A study done on the deaths of Alaskan natives produced some horrifying results; over 65% of recorded fatalities were alcohol-related. This is 9x the national average. Alcohol abuse also causes a variety of health problems among this population, including staggeringly high rates of liver cirrhosis, delirium tremens (DTs), pancreatitis and ulcers. Innocent lives are affected by the thousands every year due to the huge amounts of alcohol consumption. Fetal alcohol syndrome occurs very high among Alaskan Native Americans. Nearly 60 out of every 10,000 new births are born with fetal alcohol syndrome, this is almost 5x the national average.
Marijuana is a Schedule VIA substance under the Controlled Substances chapter of Alaskan criminal law. Yet, tetrahydrocannabinol, hash, and hash oil are Schedule IIIA substances.
Adults may possess up to one ounce of marijuana and/or to grow up to six marijuana plants (no more than three mature) for non-commercial purposes. Sharing or gifting 1 ounce or less, or 6 plants or less for personal use to persons at least 21 years of age quantities of marijuana is also permitted under the new law; however, the consumption of cannabis in public remains an offense and is punishable by a fine of up to $100.
Using marijuana before driving can result in the user getting arrested for driving under the influence (DUI). This is still true even though marijuana is legal for adults.
Possession of 1 to less than 4 ounces is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to 1-year imprisonment and/or a fine up to $10,000. However, if the use, display, or possession was for personal use and occurred in the confines of the offender’s private residence, there is no penalty and this act is protected under the Alaskan constitutional right to privacy. Possession of 4 or more ounces of marijuana is a class C felony punishable by up to 5 years imprisonment and/or a fine up to $50,000.