A ruling by the Idaho Supreme Court has given marijuana advocates hope that an initiative might pass next year in a state not known to be friendly toward cannabis.
State lawmakers created Senate Bill 1110 earlier this year, which Republican Gov. Brad Little signed into law. It would have forced petitioners to collect signatures from at least 6% of registered voters in every one of the state’s 35 legislative districts, but the new decision reinstates the previous rules, which said signatures would be necessary from 6% of voters in 18 of the state’s districts.
Critics claimed the new law would effectively make it impossible to pass any initiative in Idaho, let alone a marijuana legalization one. The court found that the initiative and referendum process is a right afforded to all citizens of the state, and that the legislature showed no good reason for taking those rights away. “This is a dispute many years in the making,” the justices noted, referring to 1912, when the people of Idaho decided to “reserve to themselves” initiative and referendum powers.
The ruling came in a case brought by the group Reclaim Idaho, which is behind a separate proposed initiative on education funding. “We conclude that the SOS and the Legislature have failed to present a compelling state interest for limiting that right,” the justices wrote. “Additionally, even if there were a compelling state interest, the Legislature’s solution is not a narrowly tailored one.”
The Idaho Supreme Court has released an opinion in Gilmore v. Denney & Reclaim Idaho v. Denney, on the constitutionality of recent legislation involving the people’s initiative and referendum powers. Read the opinion, concurrence & dissent here: https://t.co/1EdFmjvJ7f #idpol
— Idaho Supreme Court (@idcourts) August 23, 2021
Legislators who passed the bill indicated their disappointment with the ruling. “Members of the Idaho House Republican Caucus are disappointed at the Idaho Supreme Court’s decision limiting the voice of rural voters,” Republican Sen. Scott Bedke told Courthouse News. “We believe that all the 35 legislative districts, every part of Idaho, should be included in this important process; unfortunately, the Supreme Court apparently disagrees.”
But Russ Bellville, a longtime advocate and a leader of the movement to allow marijuana in the state, spoke for many when he said that advocates at least now have a chance to get the initiative passed.
PAMDA (Legalize the Drive) can now qualify with just 18 districts! Huge news! https://t.co/rNoUg3f6pE
— ‘Radical’ Russ Belville — Idaho Cannabis Legalizer (@RadicalRuss) August 23, 2021
The 2022 initiative is limited to possession of up to three ounces of marijuana on private property for adults 21 and older. There would be no home cultivation or retail stores allowed, but Idahoans would be able to buy marijuana in neighboring states that have legal retail operations and then bring it back to Idaho for home consumption. Advocates have until May 1, 2022, to collect about 65,000 valid signatures from registered voters to put the measure on the ballot.
A rally was planned in Boise to celebrate and kick off the Reclaim Iowa campaign.
BREAKING: In a historic decision, Idaho’s Supreme Court has restored citizen initiative rights. We’re celebrating on behalf of all Idahoans & we’re plowing ahead with our campaign to place the Quality Education Act on the ballot. Join us at https://t.co/XFIWa3gkNi! #idpol
— Reclaim Idaho (@reclaimID) August 23, 2021
This piece was originally published by Marijuana Moment and has been edited or modified by The News Station.