Alcohol and Marijuana Sales

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I am strongly against the legal sales of marijuana and another liquor store being opened in Bethel. I think that the people who want to get in business with selling marijuana and opening a liquor store just want money. Drugs and alcohol are bad to us and the people around us.

The use of drugs and alcohol can lead to a bad life. People are thrown into jail for using marijuana and commit DUIs for alcohol. They let students dropout from school. It will be harder to get jobs. People spend money on drugs or alcohol instead of buying things they need. They will cause a lot of health problems like liver disease. People will get evicted for using drugs in rented homes.

Marijuana can be used for medical purposes but it can be abused. People will need a higher dose to get the same effect. This could lead to other drugs being used. They could turn to drugs that are more harmful to the body and could kill them. Alaska wants marijuana but it is illegal in our U.S. government. Marijuana is illegal to use but Alaska is overruling the U.S. government by legalizing marijuana.

Alcohol is known to have bad effects. Women who consume alcohol while pregnant will cause the baby to have F.A.S. It will cause a lot of health problems like liver diseases. People can get alcohol poisoning from having too much to drink. People can also get alcohol poisoning from their first drink.

I have listed the bad thing that can happen from the uses of both marijuana and alcohol. I do not support the sales of marijuana and another liquor store being opened in Bethel. This would affect people in Kotlik by bootlegging. People would buy marijuana from the store and sell it for a higher price. It is already a problem in Kotlik. They would also have a greater chance of getting alcohol and marijuana from Bethel and selling it at Kotlik because the airports do not scan the bags. They would easily be able to get the on the plane from Bethel to Kotlik.

Paul Tony

Bethel, AK

Defending public health in Alaska

In Governor Walkers third state of the state address the following.

“By the end of this year, we will have closed seven trooper posts; six public health centers; three maintenance stations; one correctional facility; two youth detention facilities; multiple job centers; and a fire training facility,” Governor Walker said. “We can’t keep cutting the budget and expect to improve our situation. Alaskans demand – and deserve – better.”

Along with center closures, the public health nursing workforce who actually live and work in the communities they serve was reduced by thirty positions and the budget cut by 25%. Constituents have complained to their representatives about the closures and cuts in services, but it appears to have fallen on deaf ears.

I agree with the Governor we can’t keep cutting our way out of the fiscal disaster. Cutting public health centers is a particularly bad idea and here is why. Let’s review a short story.

“People are being swept downstream by a river’s raging water. The crowd on shore works to pluck them out of the rushing water, but many are missed and swept away. Some of the rescue group decided to pull out those that could not swim first. As the rescue group continues it’s never ending battle, a few hike upstream to see what is causing people to fall into the river in the first place. They identify the root cause of the problem (people crossing a dangerous river without a bridge), come up with a solution (build a bridge), and put the solution into action.

As a result: people stop falling into the river. They are no longer at risk and there is no need to focus all the resources on pulling people out of the river one at a time.”

This parable is standard in the health sciences to help illustrate the difference between public health and health care. If you haven’t already guessed the individuals looking UPSTREAM are your public health professionals and those working DOWNSTREAM are your traditional health care providers and rescue professionals. We need BOTH. You can’t have a healthy population without BOTH public health and health care systems working in collaboration.

Think of public health centers as your population health disease detectives. Not only do they offer health education they also work to prevent and control communicable diseases like measles, whooping cough, STD’s, TB, and respond to outbreaks, they also work on challenging social issues like drug and alcohol abuse, teen pregnancy, domestic violence.

Now, take an issue like opioid addiction. Restrictions on opioid prescriptions have led to more people seeking heroin and unfortunately this drug is often cut with highly potent fentanyl leading to more overdoses. Walker just declared a state of emergency and narcan kits are being distributed (via public health centers to community partners) which reverse the opioid action during an overdose event. This is an excellent example of a downstream intervention.

But, where does that individual go when resuscitated, who pays the hospital costs, are there enough rehab beds, after discharge where do they go? The public health professional is trained to work with community partners to ask what are the causes and conditions of addiction, how can we prevent addiction, how can we identify early signs or risks of addiction and how can we coordinate groups already working on these issues? What are the root causes of the current crisis and how can we mobilize most effectively and not duplicate efforts?

Now, eliminating the upstream action, as the Alaska Legislature wants, will clearly result in endless downstream demand, negative consequences, and ever increasing costs for all Alaskans.

Join me is defending public health in Alaska. It is simply the fiscally responsible thing to do.

Jennifer Meyer RN, MPH, CPH

Assistant Professor of Allied Health

Allied Health Department Co-Chair

Expanded Access Allied Health Programs

UAF College of Rural and Community Development

Kuskokwim Campus

For more information about e-learning and community-based Allied Health Programs, please contact me directly or visit:

Alaskans Have a Right to Consent to PFD and Fund Changes

The Permanent Fund Defenders mission is to educate people about the history and purpose of Alaska’s Permanent Fund and dividend (PFD); to protect and defend what we regard as its primary purpose; and to support legislators in making the right decisions related to the Permanent Fund and PFD that benefit all Alaskans.

Several of us worked with Gov. Jay Hammond to create the Fund and can attest to what we believe was his—and the people’s—intent. We also list here the many compelling and researched points in defense of maintaining inflation-proofing and the full dividend program.

Former Gov. Hammond warned, “Of one thing I’m sure…as go dividends, so goes the Permanent Fund. Cap, reduce, or eliminate the PFD and the Fund will follow suit.” This is the wisdom of a man who understood “sustainability” before many of us were born. Hammond understood the ease with which public money disappears, and how impossible inflated budgets are to reign in.  He understood that oil wealth belongs to the people in common, for all generations, and a reasonable share should be distributed to residents. He believed that a dividend is not discretionary, subject to veto or re-appropriation. It is a right deserving of protection in our Alaska Constitution. Using dividends to fund government should be “off the table”.

The Permanent Fund belongs to the people by constitutional mandate (Article 8). The PFD is the citizens’ equal share of resource wealth, not a form of welfare. Alaskans have a right to consent to all changes to how Fund earnings are used and managed.

We know that inflation proofing the Permanent Fund is essential to maintaining its value for future generations. Plans to eliminate inflation proofing the Fund are just another way to take money out of Alaskan’s pockets and move it into government’s pocket since the value of the Fund will erode quickly.

From a public policy standpoint, taking any part of the dividend from Alaskans has disproportionately negative consequences when compared to other options. It affects people at every economic level, especially those who need it the most. UAA’s ISER concluded that reducing our dividend by $1000 pushes between 12,000-25,000 people below the poverty level. Spending the People’s PFD money any other way benefits too few at the expense of the many.

ISER also concluded that cutting the PFD should be the last option used to help balance the budget because it has the largest negative impact on income and jobs. Therefore, we support restoring the full PFD to Alaskans and ease this recession as soon as possible.

The best and only way to protect the Permanent Fund is to vest Alaskans with a purpose to defend it—a dividend. A dividend linked to the Fund’s performance keeps government accountable to the people. The dividend should not be capped, but rise and fall with the fortunes of the Fund. This makes Alaskans the watchdogs that guard the Fund from mismanagement and overspending by government.

Alaska’s Permanent Fund and PFD program has become a beacon of hope to nations around the world. We call upon you to protect this example, praised worldwide as a model for saving wealth, lifting people from poverty, and guarding the citizens’ wealth from government plundering.

Through economic swings and changes of administrations, the Permanent Fund system has worked well for almost 40 years. Alaskans are aware of the challenges we now face with declining oil production, low oil prices, downsizing government and diversifying our income sources. But we also know that these challenges are solvable without “restructuring” the PFD program and Fund.

Please join us in pledging to stop the attacks on the PFD with a constitutional guarantee. Contact your legislators now to stop the raid on your Permanent Fund and PFD. Keep the people’s ownership stake in the fund strong and keep the Permanent Fund permanent.

Dr. Jack Hickel is a family physician who works with the Southcentral Foundation. Jon Faulkner is the owner of Land’s End Resort in Homer. Other members of Permanent Fund Defenders contributing to this commentary are Rick Halford of Eagle River, Clem Tillion of Halibut Cove, and Jim Crawford of Anchorage.