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Alaska closer to becoming 3rd state to legalize recreational marijuana

By Faith Karimi, CNN
January 9, 2014 -- Updated 1310 GMT (2110 HKT)
  • Citizens' group submits more than 45,000 signatures to Alaska election officials
  • It needs 30,000 verified signatures to qualify for the August state ballot
  • The proposal is similar to one passed in Colorado
  • It allows limited amounts of marijuana for adults ages 21 or older

(CNN) -- Marijuana prohibition laws are slowly going up in smoke.

An Alaska citizens' group is pushing to legalize recreational marijuana, which would make it the third state to do so after Colorado and Washington.

Driven by growing public support, Campaign to Regulate Marijuana submitted more than 45,000 signatures Wednesday to Alaska election officials. It needs about 30,000 verified signatures to qualify for the August state ballot.

"The proposed initiative will take marijuana sales out of the underground market and put them in legitimate, taxpaying businesses," said Tim Hinterberger, one of the initiative's sponsors. "Replacing marijuana prohibition with a system of taxation and sensible regulation will bolster Alaska's economy by creating jobs and generating revenue for the state."

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The proposal similar to one passed in Colorado legalizes the growing, buying and consumption of marijuana for adults ages 21 or older, CNN affiliate KTUU reported.

Alaska law currently allows those with a medicinal marijuana prescription to legally grow up to six plants or have up to one ounce, according to the affiliate.

The proposal will not only open doors for recreational use, it provides more options for medicinal marijuana users with limited access, Hinterberger told the affiliate.

Colorado pot law called springboard for other states

But marijuana legalization opponents say there are serious health consequences, and argue the drug is often a gateway to harmful, addictive substances.

Washington and Colorado legalized recreational marijuana last year, but the latter became the first state to commence sales this month. Sales in Washington have not started yet.

In addition to Colorado and Washington, 18 other states and the District of Columbia allow some legal use of marijuana, primarily for medicinal purposes.

Pro-recreational marijuana Initiatives are expected in various states in 2016, including Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts, Montana and Nevada, according to Mason Tvert of the Marijuana Policy Project.

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