Despite the fact that legal cannabis is shaping the nation, one senator in Idaho is still trying to push back against possible legalization in his state by proposing a constitutional ban at the state level on psychoactive drugs.
The amendment, proposed by Senator C. Scott Grow, a Republican based in Eagle, would officially amend the constitution, making it more difficult for advocates to legalize at the state level.
This amendment would ban “the production, manufacture, transportation, sale, delivery, dispensing, distribution, possession, or use of a psychoactive drug.” The only exceptions would be drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
Grow is adamant about why he did this—to prevent what he sees as the “erosion” of Idaho drug laws. He worries that if his state follows the lead of other, legal states in the nation, things would change for the worse. He is backed by other conservative senators, including Senate President Pro-Tem Chuck Winder.
“Neighboring states have legalized controlled substances to the detriment of their children, families and communities,” Grow said.
While state-level legalization initially took place in historically blue states like Colorado and California, more conservative states like Montana and Arizona have recently followed suit and legalized. Even South Dakota has come on board with legalization, and Oregon has gone so far as to decriminalize other drugs besides cannabis. These liberal changes make Grow and his constituents nervous.
Cannabis Laws in Idaho
Currently, Idaho does not even allow for medical cannabis, despite the fact that nearby states Washington, Oregon, Nevada, and Montana all have recreational cannabis, and Utah has medical cannabis. The only remaining neighbor to Idaho that is equally strict on cannabis is Wyoming.
As may be expected, despite the strict laws in Idaho, residents are still getting their hands on product. An Oregon survey released last year revealed that sales along the Idaho border were, ironically, up 420 percent above the average in the state.
Currently, the amendment is not a done deal. It needs approval of at least two-thirds in favor from both the state House and Senate. Then, if it gains the support it needs, it will move on to the ballot to be voted on in the 2022 election.
And this support may not happen. In addition to those who are more liberal and support cannabis, even those who aren’t necessarily in favor of cannabis are wary of changing the constitution.
“Generally, I’m in favor of debating almost everything … but this is not one of them,” Senator Grant Burgoyne, D-Boise, said in regards to the amendment, which he claims to “reluctantly” oppose. He believes that codes are meant to change over time, not be fixed by wording in the constitution.
Others, specifically those who openly support legal cannabis, are quick to criticize this move.
“It’s a ‘Hail Mary’ pass by the Idaho Legislature to stop the changes in marijuana laws they know are inevitable,” said Russ Belville, spokesperson for The Idaho Citizens Coalition for Cannabis. “It’s not just desperate legislation, it’s also flawed legislation.”
Even if this measure does manage to make it onto the ballot and get voted into law, it would not be able to stop federal legalization, nor the momentum behind the legal cannabis movement.