2023 legislative session ends with no action on medical cannabis while activists pursue a 2024 ballot initiative
In early April, Idaho lawmaker adjourned the 2023 legislative session. A Republican-sponsored bill to legalize medical cannabis was introduced but failed to advance. Idaho remains one of a handful of states that has not adopted any kind of meaningful cannabis policy reform in recent years. A group of advocates with Kind Idaho are looking to change that. After an unsuccessful effort to collect enough signatures for a medical cannabis ballot initiative in 2022, the coalition of patients and allies is trying again with a new 2024 measure.
The proposal for 2024 is nearly identical to the previous language. If the initiative ultimately qualifies for the ballot and is approved by voters, it would create a medical cannabis program overseen by the Department of Health and Welfare for patients with serious health conditions. It would also permit patients to appoint caregivers and establish a system of medical cannabis dispensaries.
Under current Idaho law, an individual charged with possession of up to an ounce of marijuana faces a year in jail and/or up to a $1,000 fine. Unfortunately, this draconian law hits minority communities the hardest. According to the ACLU, Black Idahoans are nearly four times more likely to be arrested for possession than their white neighbors.
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The Idaho Legislature recently sent SB 1110 to Gov. Little’s desk. By creating extremely burdensome requirements for the signature gathering process, the bill is designed to effectively strip Idahoans of their right to initiate laws through the ballot process.