Attend The Idaho HOPEfest
Today Karri Gallaugher (Cannabis Karri), Kenny Davis (Cousin Kenny), and I ("Radical" Russ) will be appearing at the Idaho HOPEfest (Hemp Offers People Everything) at Ann Morrison Park in Boise, Idaho. Karri and I will be speaking and Kenny and I will be playing blues and rock with the band Boi Howdy.
I was born and grew up in Nampa, Idaho, which used to be a small town in the county west of Boise, known as Canyon County. It's the conservative bedroom county to the next-door metropolis, akin to Orange County to Los Angeles or Washington County to Portland. When I left Idaho, the county sheriff had been running drug-sniffing dogs through the local mall parking lot, then stopping the cars the dogs marked once they got onto the public roads. He'd also floated the idea of requiring all landlords in the county to require clean drug tests from applicants for housing.
Heard on The Russ Belville Show
"Radical" Russ Belville
Boi Howdy (Russ & Kenny)
Cannabis Karri Gallaugher
Libertarian VP Candidate Judge Jim Gray
So when I come back to Idaho, I always feel the hair on the back of my neck stand up. I am literally a criminal when I cross the Snake River at Payette County. According to Idaho Laws, marijuana "use or intoxication in public" is a misdemeanor deserving of six months imprisonment and a $1,000 fine. Now, it's not like I'm toking up in Ontario and coming across the border high. But "intoxication" under Idaho law can be proven by my failure to pee clean on a drug screen. I could stop smoking pot for a month and still fail a drug test.
Furthermore, when I come into Idaho, I save money by spending the night with friends who smoke marijuana. "Presence at location where marijuana is cultivated or stored" is also a misdemeanor, deserving of three months in jail and a $300 fine.
This breaks my heart every year. My family and many friends still live in Idaho and I cannot visit them without breaking the law. Practically, you might argue, there's not much chance of being caught breaking these laws. After all, I lived in Boise from 1990-2002 as a pot smoker and never got caught. So long as I don't get into a car accident or somehow arouse the suspicion of law enforcement, I should be OK.
But something changes when you live in Oregon, Portland especially, and you begin to experience what life can be for a pot smoker as at least a second-class citizen instead of a criminal. That fear of seeing a police car driving not just behind you, but anywhere near you, goes away. That trepidation about leaving the home, worried that the smell of marijuana on your clothes may somehow lead to handcuffs, evaporates. It's hard to go back to looking over your shoulder and following anti-law enforcement protocols.
So I hope my time in Idaho opens some minds and maybe changes a few. You don't have to like marijuana or marijuana smokers but it is time to stop treating us like criminals. Let's talk about this.