Legislature stalls again; advocates prepare to put medical marijuana on the 2020 ballot
Last update: July 10, 2019
The Idaho legislative session came to a close this year with marijuana policy reform bills falling short of the finish line. Rep. John Gannon (D) and Rep. Bryan Zollinger (R) sponsored legislation, H 140, to lower penalties and partially decriminalize possession of half an ounce or less of marijuana, but the bill died in committee. And despite widespread support, lawmakers failed to pass H 112, a bill that would have legalized the production of hemp and CBD products in the state.
Idaho has some of the most antiquated marijuana laws of any state in the union, but voters may have an opportunity to change that in the 2020 election. After years of inaction in the legislature, the Idaho Cannabis Coalition has filed a petition with the Secretary of State to legalize medical marijuana through a ballot initiative next year.
Bill Esbensen, a leader of the campaign, spoke to the press after filing the petition: “Nobody should be condemned to suffer just because they live in the wrong state. Our initiative brings Idaho up to speed with states like Oklahoma, Arkansas, and West Virginia by protecting people who are just trying to treat their medical condition with a non-toxic plant.”
The campaign and signature gathering effort will be ramping up soon. Click here to sign up for Idaho-specific email updates from MPP!
Learn more about Idaho's marijuana laws
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 over two and half times more likely to be arrested for possession than their white neighbors. A bipartisan effort to reduce these penalties was introduced in 2018 by Rep. Eric Redman (R-Athol) and John Gannon (D-Boise), H0491, but unfortunately it never received a hearing.
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