A Constitutional Ban on Marijuana is Advancing in Idaho’s Legislature
Marijuana legalization has been advancing rapidly in recent years. As of mid-2012, not a single U.S. state, and not a single country, had legalized marijuana. Less than nine years later, and 15 states have legalized marijuana – including over 30 for medical use – and both Canada and Uruguay have legalized as a nation. However, despite the momentum clearly heading in one specific direction, Idaho lawmakers are advancing a measure that would make marijuana constitutionally illegal, and to prevent legalization from happening.
As reported on by the Associated Press, state lawmakers on Friday moved forward with a proposed constitutional amendment that would bar the legalization of marijuana in Idaho in an attempt to keep the growing nationwide acceptance of the drug from seeping across its borders.
“Idaho is one of only three states without some sort of policy allowing residents to possess products with even low amounts of THC, the psychoactive chemical in marijuana. Residents can cross the state border in nearly every direction and find themselves in a place where marijuana can be bought for recreational or medicinal purposes. Support for medicinal marijuana use is growing among some residents — with legalization activists trying to get an initiative on the state ballot in 2022.”
This, of course, has made conservatives in Idaho nervous.
The joint resolution to ban all psychoactive drugs (yes, this would apply to more than just marijuana) not already legal in Idaho was passed by the Senate State Affairs Committee by a vote of 6 to 2. The vote was along party lines, with both “No” votes coming from Democrats, and all six “Yes” votes coming from Republicans.
Although the measure would apply to more than just marijuana, marijuana was clearly their primary target.
Supporters of the measure say the Idaho Constitution needs to be changed because neighboring states, “heavily influenced by out-of-state money”, have approved marijuana use through voter initiatives, and it could happen in Idaho.
“When drugs are legalized that are currently illegal, it increases health care costs and crime,” said the resolution’s sponsor, Republican Sen. Scott Grow, condemning both recreational and medical marijuana use. “This is about money. It’s not about caring for people who might have pain or sickness.”
Those opposed said medical marijuana is needed for Idaho residents suffering from chronic or terminal illnesses. Dan Zuckerman, medical director of St. Luke’s Cancer Institute, said dealing with over a thousand cancer patients over more than a decade convinced him of the efficacy of medical marijuana in helping with pain and nausea, notes the AP.
“I’ve seen it myself with my own eyes,” he said. “The data is clear that patients benefit from this.”
Senator Michelle Stennett, a Democrat from Ketchum, also noted that the amendment would prohibit doctors from providing terminally ill patients access to experimental or investigational drugs that are normally illegal but can still be prescribed in certain circumstances when other treatments have failed.
“Passing this would prohibit Idaho doctors and patients from making medical choices,” by banning new medical breakthroughs, Stennett said. “This is a direct impact on the ability of Idahoans to do good medical health care.”
“Some lawmakers questioned whether the constitutional amendment could interfere with the legalization of industrial hemp, a potentially lucrative crop for farmers who have seen attempts to legalize the crop fail in recent years”, states the AP, going on to say that “Opponents also questioned whether the amendment would ban CBD oil containing small amounts of THC”: Both products are illegal in Idaho, but are legal federally as well as in most states. Grow said there is additional legislation planned to legalize industrial hemp that he expects will pass this year.
The joint resolution would have to pass the Senate with a two-thirds majority. It would then go to the House, where it would also need a two-thirds majority. After that, it would go before voters in the November 2022 general election, requiring a simple majority to pass.
Bill Esbensen is part of the Idaho Citizens Coalition, which is a nonprofit working to put the legalization of medical marijuana before voters in 2022. He said the constitutional amendment would prohibit legalizing medical marijuana through an initiative, even though he said most people in the state want medical marijuana approved.
He told lawmakers: “You guys are so afraid of marijuana, you’re willing to blow up the state constitution”.