Everywhere Cannabis Legalization Moves Forward, in Idaho Backwards

Soft Secrets
03 Feb 2021

Is there any hope left for Idaho?

In Idaho, they are talking about a constitutional ban on legal weed, hello!? Is it the Middle Ages again? Elsewhere marijuana legislation is taking root except for Idaho, "the last fox hole." "You guys are so afraid of marijuana, you're willing to blow up the state constitution," Bill Esbensen from Idaho Citizens Coalition, which lobbies for legalizing medical pot statewide, told lawmakers. The development follows after on 29 January, Idaho state lawmakers set in motion a proposal for a constitutional amendment that would bar the legalization of cannabis in Idaho in an attempt to keep the growing nationwide acceptance of the drug from seeping across its borders. The northwestern state is one of only three states without any policy allowing residents to possess products with even trace amounts of THC. At least for medical cannabis, support has been growing in Idaho. A majority of Idahoans are in favor of legalizing medical cannabis, Esbensen said. A citizen-driven initiative is trying to bring marijuana on the state ballot in 2022, but should a constitutional ban sets in stone, any such attempt is doomed to fail. The joint resolution to ban all psychoactive substances not already legal in Idaho won approval with a 6-2 party-line vote in the Senate State Affairs Committee. The list of substances would change for drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration. However, the proposed ban's primary target has been none other substance but marijuana, as Idaho finds itself surrounded by a string of states with legal weed. Idaho residents can cross the state border in nearly every direction and supply their pot stash, regardless if they're relying on it as medicine or chill out. In fact, some of Idaho's neighbors were quite progressive with their pot policies. Nevada on the south broke records at the time by setting the fastest opening of dispensaries and starting sales following legalization (it used to be the quickest state having done so until Arizona stole the record last month). On the west, Oregon decriminalized the personal possession of hard drugs such as heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine, so disputing soft drugs like cannabis is out of the question a long time ago there. Montana and Washington also have substantial legislation, while Utah allows for the use of medical marijuana. Wyoming allows CBD products containing less than 3% of THC. CBD products can be purchased in Idaho, but they mustn't contain any THC. Idaho constitutional ban on weed

What did retrograde lawmakers say?

Supporters of the Idaho constitutional amendment said such change must occur because neighbor states, primarily influenced by out-of-state money, have approved cannabis use through voter initiatives, and it could happen (God forbid) in Idaho too. "When drugs are legalized that are currently illegal, it increases health care costs and crime," said Republican Sen. Scott Grow, who sponsors the controversial resolution condemning both recreational and medical pot. "This is about money. It's not about caring for people who might have pain or sickness," he said. “The legislature should promote temperance and morality,” he added. A member of a group of retired police officers in Idaho who left California, Washington and Oregon, Keith Graves, said those three states went downhill with crime and other issues following weed legalization. "We're from your future," Graves told the committee in a public hearing before the vote. "This is the last fox hole. There's nowhere else to go."

What did people with common sense say?

People opposed to the ban said Idaho residents struggling with chronic or terminal illnesses need medical marijuana. The medical director of St. Luke's Cancer Institute, Dan Zuckerman, called on his experience treating more than a thousand cancer patients in the last decade. He was convinced of the efficacy of medical pot in addressing nausea and pain, he said. "I've seen it myself with my own eyes," he said. "The data is clear that patients benefit from this." Sen. Michelle Stennett, a Democrat from Ketchum, also noted that the amendment would strip doctors of the ability to provide terminally ill patients access to experimental or investigational drugs that are typically illegal but can still be prescribed in certain circumstances when everything else fails. "Passing this would prohibit Idaho doctors and patients from making medical choices" by banning new medical breakthroughs, she said. "This is a direct impact on the ability of Idahoans to do good medical health care." Stennett, whose spouse has undergone cancer treatment, described the legislation to be "extraordinarily cruel" and was one of the two persons in the committee to vote against it. Idaho constitutional ban on weed Some lawmakers questioned if the constitutional amendment could interfere with industrial hemp legalization. A potentially lucrative crop, farmers have seen attempts to legalize the crop falter over the last few years. Opponents also questioned whether the amendment would ban CBD oil containing trace amounts of THC. Both products are illegal in Idaho but are legal federally, as are in most states. Grow remarked that additional legislation planned to legalize industrial hemp he expects will make the pass this year.

What's next, and where we stand with legalization?

After being voted by a committee, the Idaho resolution would have to pass the Senate with a two-thirds majority. It would then need to win the same majority in the House. When and if it finally gets to the voters in the November 2022 general elections, it will require a simple majority to pass and lock harmful drug policies. 36 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands have come forward in recent years with comprehensive, publicly available medical cannabis programs. 15 states and three territories have also legalized cannabis for adult use. Yeah, just keep it in your own private Idaho!
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