By MATT VOLZ
JUNEAU, Alaska — The Alaska House passed legislation Friday night that would restore criminal penalties for marijuana possession and make it tougher to buy the ingredients to manufacture methamphetamine.
The bill was approved by the Senate last month and now goes to Gov. Frank Murkowski to sign into law. Murkowski sought to change Alaska's law on marijuana possession, which is considered the most liberal in the country.
The Senate tacked on the marijuana provisions to legislation seeking to curb the manufacture of methamphetamine.
The House voted 21-17 in favor of the bill, which would make pot possession of 4 ounces or more a felony. Possession of less than 4 ounces but more than an ounce would be a misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail. Less than one ounce would be a misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days in jail.
Murkowski is seeking to overturn the landmark Alaska Supreme Court decision that legalized the use of small amounts of marijuana.
The court concluded in 1975 that Alaskans' constitutional right to privacy outweighed any harm that might occur from using a small amount of marijuana in the home. State legislators set that amount at 4 ounces in 1982.
The bill says marijuana is a more potent and dangerous drug than it was 30 years ago.
"Obviously we are pleased," said Kevin Jardell, the governor's legislative liaison. "The governor worked real hard on this, it's something he believes in. It's a good day for Alaska."
The American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska sent a letter to Attorney General David Marquez on Friday saying the organization would sue for injunctive relief if the bill becomes law.
"Plain and simple, you are attempting to further restrict the right to privacy enjoyed by all Alaskans by enacting the marijuana provisions of (the bill)," Director Michael Macleod-Ball wrote.