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When is the Use of a Drug an Offense in Alaska?

The term “drug” has unfortunate connotations. Many drugs are over the counter medicines, like aspirin for pain relief or dextromethorphan for suppressing nasty coughs. You can buy them off the shelf in a pharmacy, some supermarkets or even in a gas station or neighborhood grocery store. Many others aren’t illegal as long as you obtain a prescription from a medical provider for them, like antibiotics. In fact, drugs are any kind of chemical product which can affect the way the body’s biochemical machinery works.

Some drugs can affect the mind so much that the effect may be harmful to the person who uses the drug or to others because it has changed their behavior. Many of these mind altering drugs are controlled substances in Alaska and most other states with severe penalties if you are caught in possession of them, or worse still, caught distributing or manufacturing them.

Alcohol laws

A couple of these ‘recreational’ mind altering drugs, alcohol and marijuana, are not necessarily illegal to use, but their legal use, manufacture and sale is restricted. You can have as many drinks as you like in an Anchorage bar, for example, (as long as you are 21 or older), but can’t drive home afterwards without breaking the law. You might have a light beer or a small glass of wine, and then drive, as long as your blood alcohol content is less than 0.08% if tested and this small amount of alcohol doesn’t make you ‘intoxicated’.

You can brew your own beer, make your own wine, even distil some moonshine as long as the quantities you make are within federally imposed limits and they are for private consumption only. You need a license to sell alcohol commercially, so it would be illegal to sell your own alcoholic beverages. Alaska statute AS 04.21.015 permits the private ‘sale’ of alcoholic drinks under special conditions, for example where there is a social or club occasion and the drinks are exchanged for a ‘reasonable contribution’ that doesn’t involve a profit.

Marijuana laws

Marijuana laws in Alaska are relatively liberal compared to many other states. The fact that marijuana decriminalization is relatively recent is more a reflection of history of drug use in the U.S. You can have in your possession up to 4 ounces of marijuana in your own home, but can be charged with a misdemeanor if you are caught with more. If you are in a public space, e.g. on the waterfront, or a park and are found in possession of more than 1 ounce you may be charged with a misdemeanor. This could end up with up to $10,000 in fines and up to a year in prison. More than 4 ounces in a public place could mean a felony charge with much more serious penalties. Having any marijuana within 500 feet of a school or recreational space is illegal and might attract a felony charge.

You can grow as many as 6 marijuana plants and if they are entirely on your own property, you can grow up to 25 plants, but you could get hit with a misdemeanor charge if you grow any more.

You can give away or share up to an ounce of marijuana to someone else as long as they are over 21 ‘without compensation’, i.e. you can’t sell it. Any more could mean a misdemeanor charge with up to 5 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines. You can only sell marijuana with a license.

Controlled drugs

Most recreational drugs, i.e. drugs taken because of their narcotic or mind altering effects are illegal. They are classified according to their perceived danger. There are serious penalties for possession, manufacture and distribution of even very small quantities of any controlled substance without a license or prescription. Distribution of any controlled substance is more serious than possession. Distribution to a minor is the most serious.

The laws about drugs can be quite confusing and as you can see from the laws on alcohol and marijuana alone, stepping over the line can land you in prison, with your job and reputation lost and a fine to pay. If you stick to medications, you’ve got no problem, but it pays to know what is legal or illegal if using any other drugs.

If you are arrested on a DUI, marijuana or any controlled substance charge, make sure that you use the services of an experienced attorney In Anchorage, contact the Law Office of Dattan Scott Dattan. He will fight for your rights.

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Law Office of Dattan Scott Dattan

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