Alaska Becomes the First Red State to Go Green

On Tuesday, the Last Frontier became the third state to end marijuana prohibition.

Prior to Tuesday, the most public face of Alaska's marijuana legalization campaign was that of Charlo Greene, a local television reporter in Anchorage, who outed herself as the owner of a cannabis club during a live broadcast back in September.

Her breezy, on-air resignation went viral after she announced that she would be devoting her "energy to fighting for freedom and fairness, which begins with legalizing marijuana here in Alaska." The coda for Greene's valedictory segment contained the very four words that a pipe dream is made of: "F*ck it, I quit."

On Tuesday, Alaska joined Colorado and Washington as the only American states with recreational cannabis after the ballot initiative, which was passed in last November, officially went into effect. "Smoking, growing and owning small amounts of marijuana" are now legal, Reuters noted, even as marijuana remains illegal on the federal level. Selling marijuana will also remain illegal until a regulatory framework is set up to allow sales next year. (Public use of marijuana remains illegal as well.)

In sketching out Alaska's history with marijuana for The Atlantic back in December, Josh Kramer noted that the passage of Ballot Measure 2—the marijuana initiative—actually does little to change the status of the substance in a state where possessing small amounts of marijuana has technically been legal since 1975. However, as part of the national legalization riptide, the emergence of a first Republican-leaning state seems a noteworthy development.

For this reason, legalization activists are pressing for Alaskans to be cautious about their marijuana use. “Most adults use marijuana for the same reasons most adults use alcohol," Mason Tvert of the Marijuana Policy Project said in a statement on Monday. "We want them to keep in mind that it carries the same responsibilities.”

The group launched a billboard campaign in Alaska echoing that sentiment:

(The Anchorage Police Department outlined the new laws in a campaign called "Know Your Grow.")

This Marijuana Policy Project initiative dovetails with a responsibility-themed campaign in states where recreational marijuana is already legal. One billboard in Colorado takes a pretty pointed pot shot at New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, who infamously chronicled a bad experience she had with a chocolate-caramel marijuana candy bar during a visit to Colorado last summer. The conspicuous ad features a distressed redheaded woman in a hotel room with her laptop open and a warning about edibles.

Meanwhile, allaying concerns about pot edibles remains one of the enduring challenges for advocates of legal marijuana. For example, in Wasilla, Alaska, a town with its own pre-existing national notoriety, the city council banned the baking of pot brownies (or other edibles), even on private property. Wasilla residents voted against the November marijuana initiative, the Alaska Dispatch News relayed, "by a roughly 4 percent margin."

As the state moves forward, pot enthusiasts are greeting their new freedoms with an mixture of excitement and caution. The AP reported that a local Anchorage man "who had been promoting what he called 'Idida-toke' in a nod to Alaska's Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race," had canceled the party. As for Charlo Greene, she is planning a "celebratory toke at 4:20 p.m."