Niki Raapana and the Alaska Hempfest

By: Ryan Augusta

First, a little background. In the last 31 years, three legislative decisions were made, which are essential to fully understanding the Alaskan political landscape:

  • In 1975, in Ravin v State, the Alaska Supreme Court maintained that adults have a constitutional right to the use and possession of marijuana. This was the first state or federal court to establish a privacy right that protected marijuana use and possession.

  • Fifteen years later Alaskan voters approved an initiative that recriminalized the possession of marijuana. In June 2006, the possession of more than one ounce of marijuana was prohibited and possession of more than one ounce of marijuana became a class A misdemeanor. Subsequently in July 2006, Juneau Superior Court Judge Patricia Collins ruled that prohibition was unconstitutional.

  • In November 2014, Alaskan voters approved a ballot measure to legalize the possession and sale of marijuana, regulating it in a manner similar to alcohol.

So, knowing that, we can move forward.

In 1999 a pest exterminator reported two potentially rat-infested houses to the Assistant Attorney of Seattle, Washington. City and county officials, with the Department of Public Health (DPH), dispatched two environmental investigators to inspect the buildings. Upon arrival, the inspectors were denied access without a warrant. The infestation had not yet been verified or disconfirmed before the judge authorized the request for warrants.

With magisterial authority to “obtain whatever assistance is necessary and proper under the circumstances,” DPH and the Seattle Police Department (SPD) executed the orders. Individuals were awakened to the “pounding” of doors, frisked, with arms to the walls,  “immediately” taken’ and interrogated. Residents were detained while two buildings were searched for "violations" in “cabinets, closets, under furniture, inside furniture, inside appliances, in common areas, storage spaces, basements and attics.” The warrant contained orders to seize “evidence of violations of the Seattle Municipal Health Code, including photographs and any other evidence of filth, debris, rodent or insect infestation.” The search ultimately failed to provide any evidence that the homes were infested.

The residents claimed that the search violated their Fourth Amendment rights because King County failed to teach its inspectors a constitutionally proper procedure. It was also determined that the detention exceeded what was necessary to secure the DPH inspectors’, officers’ and residents’ safety—thus violating Fifth Amendment rights as well. However, because the officers were never individually named, there was no establishment of material fact as to whether a policy or practice caused a violation of rights. The court concluded that the detention of the residents was not unreasonable. The claims were unilaterally dismissed and, with no dispute of material fact, a violation of rights could not be established.

Dawson, Emry, Foltz and Sogga were not the only residents throughout the Brooklyn Ave NE neighborhood whose homes were invaded. In the court documents of Dawson v. City of Seattle, the homes are referred to as boarding houses. This is a term that, in retrospect, has been applied to categorize any housing with over nine tenants. In 1999, entire neighborhoods were subjected to these DPH inspections, although only two homes were aggressively invaded by the SPD. Of these neighbors, two have inspired a positive influence in the world of cannabis; Hempfest founder and Executive Director, Vivian McPeak, and Alaska Hempfest Founding Director Niki Friedrich Raapana.

Niki Raapana founded The Extreme Climate Housing School and The Gertee Factory at Kenny Lake, Alaska. She’s the co-author of "The Anti Communitarian Manifesto" and "2020: Our Common Destiny.” She also communicates her ideas through her blog “Living Outside the Dialectic.”

Raapana dedicated years to researching DPH state programs, attending city and county planning meetings, writing hundreds of letters, and filing hundreds of Freedom Information Act (FOIA) requests. She also hosted the Inaugural Alaska Hempfest in June 2016. In the new light of a budding cannabis industry, the celebration of our legal right to possess and consume is the theme of Alaska Hempfest.

Niki Raapana suggests that legalization has opened the door to government intrusions. She states that the Alaska Marijuana Legalization, Ballot Measure 2, compromises the privacy rights established within the Ravin v. State decision. Furthermore, under Ballot Measure 2 individuals can only have one ounce of Cannabis and six plants. Previously people were allowed to have four oz and 24 plants. Raapana’s service continues to shine as she educates the community and strives to celebrate the liberation of cannabis. Her statement is clear, “We’re all leaders in my country: All chiefs, no Indians.”