In a decisive move, the Idaho state Senate approved a resolution on Wednesday that will amend the state constitution to prevent marijuana, or any other drugs, from becoming legal.
While the measure still has to be passed by the House, the Senate State Affairs Committee approved the resolution, and the full chamber has voted 21-11 in favor. A two-thirds majority vote in the House will allow it to go before Idaho voters in the midterm ballot of 2022.
The measure stipulates that “the production, manufacture, transportation, sale, delivery, dispensing, distribution, possession, or use of a psychoactive drug shall not be permitted in the state of Idaho.”
The only exceptions would be substances approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). If the measure passes, with federal laws not relaxing their regulations on medical marijuana, the state of Idaho will not have a medical marijuana program similar to other surrounding states.
This places marijuana advocates in a difficult position. Should Idaho legislators pass this measure, the resulting constitutional initiative on the ballot would have precedence over any statutory legalization measures that are proposed alongside the measure. Currently, legalization efforts in the state include signature collection on an initiative to legalize medical cannabis, while another group is gearing up to put adult-use legalization on the ballot.
The Idaho Senate-approved resolution says that the “normalization of illicit drug use is having a profound negative impact on Idaho citizens” and, therefore, it is “reasonable and necessary” to enact the constitutional change.
Other senators oppose this viewpoint, and acknowledge the benefits of medical cannabis and its proposed positive outcomes on statewide health issues. Regina Bayer, R-Meridian, said she knew a Vietnam veteran who is free from opioids with CBD. “This can be an aid to end our opioid crisis,” Bayer said.
Yet other legislators do not support amending the constitution because they believe that Idahoans should be able to determine whether or not they want to have any forms of marijuana legalization in their state.
The measure has received heavy criticism from activists, who reference the verbiage of the measure, which refers broadly to “psychoactive drugs.” They feel that lawmakers have not made it explicitly clear that this measure will effectively cripple efforts for a medical marijuana program in Idaho.
Here’s the language of the constitutional amendment that the lawmakers hope to place before voters:
“Shall Article III of the Constitution of the State of Idaho be amended by the addition of a new Section 30 to provide that the production, manufacture, transportation, sale, delivery, dispensing, distribution, possession, or use of certain psychoactive drugs shall not be lawful in the State of Idaho unless such drugs are: (a) approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration and permitted by the state; (b) lawfully prescribed; and (c) lawfully dispensed?”
Again, the wording of the measure does not plainly state that passing this piece of legislation would eliminate the option to utilize medical cannabis.
Additional challenges have or will face Idaho cannabis advocates, including: a failed attempt at collecting signatures to place medical marijuana on the ballot in 2020 due to Coronavirus, a Republican legislator introducing a limited medical marijuana program measure, and the added complication of a full-adult use measure being introduced in 2021.
With most states surrounding Idaho making headway in cannabis legalization, it will be an interesting journey for marijuana supporters in the state. While the Idaho senate has clearly shown their support for denying any legalization efforts, now comes the time to wait and see what the House will do when this legislation lands in their lap.
Good luck to Idaho cannabis champions, and stay tuned for further information form the frontlines of the marijuana debate in states across the US.
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