Marijuana legalization takes effect in Alaska

LOS ANGELES - Alaska on Tuesday became the third American state to allow the recreational use of marijuana, following in the steps of Colorado and Washington state -- and soon to be joined by Oregon.

The changes in the remote frontier state's law come after voters in November narrowly approved a ballot measure making it legal to smoke, grow and own pot, though the drug remains illegal under federal law.

From now on, people in Alaska aged 21 and up can legally possess up to one ounce (28 grams) of marijuana and grow up to six plants, according to a summary provided by the official Alaska state website.

Under the state's new law, private consumption will be legal but public consumption remains illegal.

However, Alaska still must pass rules governing the sale of marijuana, and for now adults are only allowed to "give" another adult up to an ounce of marijuana -- and up to six plants.

Governor Bill Walker this week introduced legislation to create a Marijuana Control Board that would regulate marijuana sales similar to how alcohol is controlled, "while protecting the health and safety of all Alaskans," according to a press release.

While marijuana remains illegal under federal law, 23 states have allowed it for medical use and many other states are considering legislation to legalize it.

According to a recent report by the ArcView market research group, 14 more US states will legalize recreational marijuana by 2020.

Voters in November supported legalizing the drug in Oregon, where the new law is due to take effect July 1.

The nation's capital Washington DC has also voted to legalize pot but the US Congress, which has jurisdiction because DC is not a state, is trying to block the move.

Colorado's neighbours, Oklahoma and Nebraska, filed a lawsuit in the US Supreme Court in December protesting that the western state's legalization of marijuana was harming them.