Idaho politicians stand able to blow up the state structure to stop legalization


BOISE, Idaho – As legal marijuana becomes a reality in every corner of the United States, a cadre of prohibitionists battles in Idaho.

72% of Idaho residents support medical marijuana legalization. Boise lawmakers tell them they’re wrong.

State lawmakers last week proposed a proposed constitutional amendment that would prevent cannabis legalization in Idaho to prevent the drug’s growing nationwide acceptance from seeping across its borders.

Idaho is one of only three states without any policies that allow residents to own products containing even low levels of THC, the psychoactive chemical found in cannabis. Residents can cross the state line in virtually any direction and be in a location where marijuana can be purchased for recreational or medicinal purposes.

In fact, thousands of Idahoans are already flocking to legal cannabis stores across the state line in Oregon, Washington, and Montana. Marijuana is legal to own and sell to all adults aged 21 and over in these states.

72% of Idahoers support medical legalization

Support for the use of medical marijuana has increased among many residents. A 2019 poll found that 72% of Idaho voters are in favor of medical legalization. This can be seen in traditionally conservative states like South Dakota and Mississippi, both of which passed statewide legalization initiatives with overwhelming support last November.

Local legalization activists are currently working to get an initiative for the state vote in 2022. This is making some lawmakers in the deep red state nervous. Especially after voters in neighboring Oregon decriminalized personal possession of drugs like heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine last November.


Idaho marijuana laws

The legislators disagree with their voters

The joint resolution banning all psychiatric drugs not yet legal in Idaho was approved in a 6-2 vote in the Senate State Affairs Committee. The list of substances would change for drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

But the main target during the two days of testimony last week was marijuana.

Idaho is surrounded by states that have legalized cannabis. Washington, Oregon, Montana, and Nevada have legalized the use of medical marijuana for adults, while Utah allows medical marijuana. Wyoming allows CBD products that contain less than 0.3% THC.

CBD products can be purchased in Idaho, but they cannot contain any THC.


Idahoans flock to the cannabis store on the Oregon-Idaho border

37 states have legalized medical marijuana

Supporters of the move said the Idaho constitution needs to be changed because neighboring states have approved marijuana use through voter groups, and this could be done in Idaho.

The resolution’s sponsor, Republican Senator Scott Grow, claimed, “Legalizing drugs that are currently illegal increases health care costs and increases crime.”

However, contrary to what Grow claims, studies have not found any increase in health care costs associated with legalizing marijuana. In fact, numerous studies have documented the decreased use, harm, and cost of opioid use in states that legalize cannabis for medical and / or adult use. The legalization of medical marijuana has enabled many chronic pain and PTSD sufferers to replace opioid prescriptions with cannabis, lowering both the cost and the risk of overdose and death.


The Leafly study debunks myths about crime and use by teenagers

Studies have also found that legalizing cannabis stops thousands of arrests for criminal possession every year, allowing police to use their time and budget to focus on crimes that harm people.

“This is about money,” added Senator Grow. “It’s not about taking care of people who may be in pain or disease.”

Those opposed to the proposed constitutional ban said that medical marijuana is needed for Idaho residents who have chronic or incurable diseases.

Dan Zuckerman, medical director of St. Luke’s Cancer Institute, said dealing with more than 1,000 cancer patients for more than a decade had convinced him of the effectiveness of medical marijuana in treating pain and nausea.

“I saw it myself,” said Zuckerman. “The data is clear that patients benefit from it.”

Bill would hurt terminally ill patients

Senator Michelle Stennett, a Democrat from Ketchum, noted that the change would prohibit doctors from giving terminally ill patients access to experimental or investigational drugs, which are usually illegal but can still be prescribed in certain circumstances when other treatments have failed are.

“If this is passed, Idaho doctors and patients will not be able to make medical decisions,” Stennett said, banning new medical breakthroughs. “This is a direct impact on Idaho’s ability to deliver good medical health care.”

Some lawmakers questioned whether the constitutional amendment could affect the legalization of industrial hemp, a potentially lucrative crop for farmers who have failed attempts to legalize the crop in recent years.

Opponents of the ban also questioned whether the change would ban CBD oil with low levels of THC. Both products are illegal in Idaho, but legal both federally and in most states.

Additional laws to legalize industrial hemp are planned that he expects to pass this year, according to Grow.

A long way before the bill could become law

The proposed constitutional amendment would have to be passed by the Senate with a two-thirds majority. It would then go into the house, where it would also need a two-thirds majority. After that, it would stand before voters in the November 2022 general election and require a simple majority to pass.

37 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands have approved comprehensive, publicly available medical marijuana programs. Fifteen states and three territories have legalized cannabis for all adults 21 and older.

Keith Graves told the committee that he was a member of a group of retired police officers in Idaho who had left California, Washington and Oregon. He said these states went downhill with crime and other problems after legalizing marijuana.

“We are from your future,” he told the committee. “This is the last foxhole. Nowhere else can you go. “

Research shows little to no negative effects

In fact, research into crime and other issues has found just the opposite. In a 2019 review of 42 peer-reviewed studies, the Leafly team of data analysts, researchers, and editors found that the broad body of published research suggests that crime around licensed pharmacies has generally remained unchanged or has decreased is. Teenage cannabis use in legalization states has declined since legalization. And property values ​​near cannabis outlets are generally unaffected or even rising.

Bill Esbensen is part of the Idaho Citizens Coalition and is working on an initiative the group would like to bring to voters to legalize medical marijuana. He said the constitutional amendment would ban medical marijuana legalization through an initiative, though he said most people in the state want medical marijuana to be approved.

“You are so scared of marijuana, you are ready to blow up the state constitution,” he told lawmakers.

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Beth Edmonds