The pre-election barrage of advertising regarding the vote for or against Proposition 2 — which would allow the use, purchase and sale of recreational marijuana in Alaska for those aged 21 or older — has been aimed at adult users of the drug. But teenage use of marijuana is not a rarity in our state, and kids know where to purchase it whether Prop 2 passes or not.
It’s not hard to find mothers who oppose the passage of Proposition 2. At a recent Vote No On 2, Big Marijuana, Big Mistake rally, Karen Compton, mother of two teens, said
“I don’t want my kids to be guinea pigs.”
But middle school and high school kids are already experimenting with marijuana.
At a local coffee shop, I spoke with 14-year-old Bridger – last name not used at request of his mother – who says it’s not hard to find weed. He says, kids younger than he get it easily.
“Absolutely, it’s very openly spoken of and lots of kids, they’ll even wear hats with weed on them. “
“Where do they get it? Do you think older kids buy it for them or give it to them?” I asked.
“Well, the marijuana is, but not the like, clothes, they’ll buy it themselves. “
” How young do you think kids start doing marijuana?”
“Lots of them will say as early as eleven, their parents gave them a blunt, or marijuana…”
Bridger explains that a blunt is a badly rolled marijuana cigarette. He says he won’t use the drug, but many people his age do.
“They’ll say it helps them, but it really does not help them. Anybody who doesn’t smoke weed will realize that it doesn’t help them. Like it deteriorates them. It’s visual, you can just see it. It deteriorates them.”
I ask how many kids would smoke marijuana, in any given group of ten or so.
“About two would be like the open stoners, getting everyone to smoke. And then about five of them would occasionally smoke marijuana, and then about, you know, six of them would have smoked marijuana, would have done it at least once.”
Prop 2 prohibits those under the age of 21 from using false identification to purchase marijuana. And it allows the retail sale of marijuana and marijuana edibles. If it passes, Karen Compton says it’s only a matter of time before the Cannabus rolls down her street.
” I live in Spenard, and you know, where are these retail outlets going to be? They’re going to be in Spenard! You know, my kid is going to have to walk down the street past them.”
Spenard is the Anchorage neighborhood once notorious for booze, brothels and life on the edge, although gentrification has come slowly. Now a yoga studio and an organic restaurant stand where a bar and dance hall were thirty years ago. A young man in a black hoodie lounges against a storefront. He’s got the stub of a cigarette still smoking in his fingers. He’s the first teen I spot. So I stop and ask him
”What do you think of this marijuana initiative?”
He didn’t want to give his name, but he answered readily enough.
“Honestly, I’m not quite sure about it. The fact that, yeah, a lot of people up here do smoke marijuana. But, um, it’s honestly, it’s up to everybody else, I have pretty much no say about it right now, due to the fact I’m not old enough to vote. But if I did, I’d have to say yes on it, because there’s so many medicinal uses for it. But, people who just go out to use it recreationally, I don’t think it should be legal like that.”
“Have you ever used it recreationally?” “No, ma’am” “Do you know people who do?” ” Yes, ma’am.” “Is it easy to get?” ” It is.”
I tell him, “It’s not like this dark alley thing, I’ve been told a lot of people, you know their family gives it to them.”
” Yeah, pretty much. It’s that easy up in Anchorage. It’s one of those things that shouldn’t be that easy.
If Prop 2 passes, how would it shape the future world of Bridger and the unnamed teen in Spenard?
Prop 2 support group Yes On 2, Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, has released a statement claiming that the state could raise 72.5 million dollars in taxes in the first five years after Prop 2 goes into effect. The tax would be $50 on an ounce of marijuana sold.
On a Sunday evening, two volunteers man the phones at the Yes, Yes, Yes campaign office in Anchorage. Reggae music flows out of the speakers, and a table full of snack food stands ready to fight a snack attack. Campaign manager Nick Moe says his group targets the 18 – 24 demographic and is working to get out the Yes On 2 vote.
“I think that it’s easier for a sixteen year old to get a joint than it is to get a six pack right now. If we bring it out of the shadows, into the regulatory phase, like alcohol is, I think it will be a lot more difficult for children to get access to marijuana, if they have to show their ID’s. And you have to be at least 21 years old. “
Moe says if Prop 2 passes, regulation of the sale of marijuana will actually keep it out of the hands of teenagers.
“In Colorado, those rates have actually declined because there are actually more robust programs to address marijuana usage in schools. “
And, if estimates of millions in tax dollars flooding the state are accurate, Moe says there will be plenty of money around for school programs.
Not long ago, the New York Times ran an editorial urging the passage of Alaska’s Proposition Two. And last week, the NYT reported that former Wall Street equity fund managers are starting their own private equity groups targeting investment in cannabis industries across the nation. Because, one source said “…people have been buying marijuana for years… there is an existing demand.”
Closer to home, Josh Fryfogle, editor of Wasilla’s The People’s Paper, ran his own editorial, saying that, until now, not one Alaskan cared about marijuana’s legalization. He says it’s all about the money.
“The only reason this is on the ballot is because two PR firms were hired, and are being paid, to make it an issue. “
The Vote No On 2 campaign has raised just under $150,000, for their campaign, all from Alaska donors. The Yes On 2 campaign has been funded primarily by Washington, D.C.-based Marijuana Policy Project and by the New York-based Drug Policy Alliance. The two lobbying groups have donated close to $900,000 to the Yes On 2 campaign.