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Marijuana remains completely illegal in Idaho, unlike two bordering states, Washington and Oregon, where medical cannabis and adult use are legal. Idaho’s marijuana laws are some of the strictest in the country. Possession of under three ounces is a misdemeanor, but getting caught with more than that can result in a five-year prison sentence. Possession of 25 to 100 pounds gets a mandatory 5 years, with a maximum of 15, and $15,000 fine. This is bad news for James M. Reed, who was caught on an Idaho highway with 117 pounds of marijuana in his vehicle in October. That same month, Armando Sarmiento-Sarmiento and Aida Rodriguez-Hernandez were caught in a vehicle in Idaho Falls that was carrying more than 100 pounds.

According to Idaho News, Sarmiento-Sarmiento and Aida Rodriguez-Hernandez are from Visalia, California, and Aida is only 19 years old. Sarmiento-Sarmiento was also found to be in possession of methamphetamine. A local news station reports that Sarmiento-Sarmiento also provided a fake California driver’s license that identified him as Javier Luna-Gutierrez. In addition to being charged with providing false identification, he is facing these charges: possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute, possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, possession of a firearm and ammunition by an illegal alien, carrying a firearm during and in relation to drug trafficking crime, and re-entry of a previously removed alien. There was also a warrant for his arrest in Utah.

Legal States and the Black Market

In a story published in February 2018, Idaho News quotes U.S. Attorney Billy Williams as saying that with legalization and oversupply in Oregon, more black-market marijuana is being shipped into Idaho. Although sellers and growers in Oregon dispute Williams’ claim, Idaho News reports that pot busts on Idaho’s highways have been increasing: “In 2017 alone, troopers seized more pot than they did in the previous three years combined.” In some cases, Idaho residents are traveling to Oregon to buy marijuana. This was not the case, however, with Reed, who said he was from Washington, or Sarmiento-Sarmiento and Rodriguez-Hernandez, who allegedly are aliens.

Will Idaho Legalize?

With marijuana legal in neighboring states, one potential solution to Idaho’s problem with the dangers of the black market is legalization. A poll published by Idaho Politics Weekly and conducted by Dan Jones & Associates in 2015, however, showed strong support for continuing prohibition. The poll reported that even those in the 18-24 age group opposed legalization 55 to 47%. Among Republicans, 80% opposed legalization. Democrats were divided, with 49% favoring and 48% opposing.

In 2018, a medical marijuana initiative failed to make the ballot in Idaho. The Spokesman-Review reported in April that “Tesla Gillespie, president of the Idaho Medical Marijuana Association,” disbanded the grassroots group to “to care for her ailing son.” She did not say how many signatures the group had managed to collect, but they clearly fell short of the more than 56,000 that were needed. Another attempt to place a medical marijuana initiative on the ballot in 2016 also failed. The Spokesman-Review also quotes Morgan Fox of the Marijuana Policy Project as saying that Idaho’s governor, legislature, and police agencies continue to oppose even CBD legalization in the state.

What do you think? Will Idahoans change their minds about marijuana? Leave a comment below.

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About the Author: Eric Howard

Eric Howard, who lives in Los Angeles, is a staff writer for Marijuana and the Law. His most recent book, Taliban Beach Party, appeared in 2017.

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