The state of Idaho has resisted all efforts to legalize marijuana in any way over the years, including a recent failed attempt to prohibit the legalization of cannabis and other psychoactive drugs. But that hasn’t stopped activists from filing a new measure to decriminalize possession for adults, which they hope to place before voters in 2022.
Now they just need to get it on the ballot. The 20 signatures needed to merely initiate the ballot process have been turned in, but now the hard part begins: Overcoming strong opposition from the Republican and strongly anti-pot power brokers in the state.
Advocates know their neighbors, so they built in some of opponents concerns into the heart of their effort this time around and drastically limited the scope of the proposal.
“All we want to do is make it legal for you to go across the border, buy your marijuana, bring it back home and smoke it,” Russ Belville, a longtime reform advocate and a spokesman for the proposal, said in a video update.
According to the Idaho Citizens Coalition for Cannabis, Idahoans of all stripes are showing support for legal cannabis. The only impediment seems to be people in office.
Republican Gov. Brad Little signed a bill in April that made petitioning more difficult by requiring a minimum of 6% of voters in all 35 legislative districts in the state to sign a ballot proposal in order for it to qualify, whereas the law previously only required the threshold be reached in 18 districts. Two lawsuits have already been filed challenging that policy change in the state Supreme Court.
“It’s personal, adult marijuana decriminalization — three ounces as long as you keep it on private property,” he said. “So if they catch you in the park with weed, they catch you at the ballgame with weed, it’s still weed, you’re still busted. This is a very limited decriminalization of just three ounces at home.”
The current law says any individual charged with possession of up to an ounce of marijuana faces a year in jail and/or up to a $1,000 fine. The ACLU says that Black Idahoans are nearly four times more likely to be arrested for possession than their white neighbors.
Possession of marijuana outside of a private residence would remain a criminal offense, but it would be legal to transport “a personal amount of marijuana from a jurisdiction where the marijuana was legally purchased.”
That’s a crucial distinction in a state where there are no places where adults can legally purchase cannabis, and it would allow residents to go to neighboring states Montana, Nevada, Oregon and Washington state and bring marijuana home with them.
The proposal, titled the Personal Adult Marijuana Decriminalization Act (PAMDA), “ends civil and criminal penalties for what are now personal marijuana possession misdemeanors,” the text states.
“According to a report from the American Civil Liberties Union, each marijuana arrest in Idaho on average costs the state over $4,000 in police, jail, court, and probation costs,” it continues. “Therefore, savings for the state through the passage of PAMDA could be well over $22 million annually.”
“It’s a unique kind of initiative in that it’s kind of like a medical marijuana initiative for personal use in that it only legalizes the personal use of marijuana on private property with permission of the owner,” Bellville said. “And in any other circumstance, marijuana is still treated like marijuana.”
It wasn’t immediately clear how the new law will affect the medical marijuana initiative whose backers in February received the OK from the Idaho secretary of state’s office to collect signatures under the old rules to get the measure on the ballot in November 2022.
Meanwhile, a separate campaign to legalize medical cannabis in the state is also underway. Activists have until May 1, 2022, to collect about 65,000 valid signatures from registered voters to make the ballot.
The medical marijuana proposal would allow qualifying patients to purchase and possess up to four ounces of cannabis. Those with a “hardship designation” could also cultivate up to six plants. It lists 12 conditions that would make a patient eligible for medical cannabis, but it would allow the state to add additional conditions as it sees fit.
This piece was originally published by Marijuana Moment and has been edited or modified by The News Station.