Idaho House lawmakers introduced a bipartisan bill that would legalize medical cannabis. The move comes only days after a Senate committee approved a proposal to amend the state’s constitution in order to prohibit all psychoactive drugs.
The medical marijuana legalization bill was submitted by Reps. Mike Kingsley (R) and Ilana Rubel (D) and named the “Sergeant Kitzhaber Medical Cannabis Act” in honor of Sgt Jeremy Kitzhaber, a military veteran diagnosed with terminal cancer likely caused by his handling of radioactive materials while serving in the Air Force.
Writing in the Idaho Statesman, Kingsley and Rubel said they introduced the bill “because pain is not partisan.”
“We can get patients help for pain without stepping on a slippery slope, and this is what most Idahoans want. A 2019 poll from FM3 Research showed 72% of Idahoans were in favor of legalizing cannabis for medical purposes, and that number has likely climbed higher since the poll was taken,” the lawmakers wrote. “There is strong evidence cannabis is a much safer treatment than opioids and would better serve those suffering from a variety of illnesses, like cancer, epilepsy, ALS, and multiple sclerosis.”
Kingsley and Rubel’s bill proposes a medical cannabis program in Idaho that would be rather modest compared to other states that legalized medical marijuana. Marijuana would be dispensed in small doses in blister-sealed packaging for patients with one of 16 medical conditions, while home cultivation would be prohibited. Qualifying patients would require a medical marijuana card which could be revoked if they were found to have given their cannabis to another person. The bill also stipulates that only those medical providers permitted to prescribe opioids would be allowed to recommend marijuana as a treatment.
Meanwhile, as the House Health and Welfare Committee considers Kingsley and Rubel’s proposal, Idaho medical marijuana advocates were given the all clear to collect signatures in order to put a medical cannabis legalization question on the state’s 2022 ballot. So while the Idaho legislature simultaneously debates competing proposals to loosen and entrench marijuana prohibition, it’s conceivable that voters could be asked to do much the same come the midterm elections in 2022. If the proposed constitutional amendment to ban all psychoactive drugs, submitted by Sen. Scott Grow, passes the legislature it would require voter approval to take effect. Those same voters could be asked at the same time whether they approve of medical marijuana legalization in Idaho. However, the constitutional amendment, if approved by voters, would take precedence over the statutory proposal to legalize medical marijuana, no matter the margins of victory.