An Idaho Senate committee approved a resolution that would amend the state’s constitution to prevent marijuana legalization from happening in the future.
The Senate State Affairs Committee voted 6-2 for the resolution along party lines, which should give cause for concern to cannabis reform advocates who intend to put a marijuana legalization question on the 2022 ballot.
One group of marijuana reform advocates in Idaho is currently collecting signatures to put an initiative legalizing medical cannabis on the ballot, while another hopes to qualify an adult-use marijuana legalization measure. The advocates for medical cannabis legalization tried to put the question to voters on Election Day 2020 but were unable to petition due to the coronavirus outbreak.
The approved resolution states that “the production, manufacture, transportation, sale, delivery, dispensing, distribution, possession, or use of a psychoactive drug shall not be permitted in the state of Idaho.”
The resolution, sponsored by Sen. C. Scott Grow (R), goes on to state that the “normalization of illicit drug use is having a profound negative impact on Idaho citizens” and for that reason it is “reasonable and necessary” to amend Idaho’s constitution.
Intriguingly, if the Idaho legislature were to approve the resolution it could appear on the 2022 ballot alongside a marijuana legalization measure but, as a proposal to amend the constitution, it would take precedence over a statutory measure legalizing cannabis, even if marijuana legalization were approved by a wider margin. In short, if the resolution were to be approved by voters then legalizing marijuana through the ballot box in Idaho would become impossible.
Marijuana reform advocates contend the resolution is designed to undermine the democratic process through its use of the term “psychoactive drug” which voters may not realize would also include medical cannabis. The text of the resolution excludes psychoactive substances approved for use by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which may lead many to think medical marijuana would be permitted, but so far the FDA has only approved of one non-psychoactive marijuana-derived medication to treat two rare forms of epilepsy. The FDA is preparing new guidance to expedite approval of CBD medications, but the regulator has shown no indication it would consider THC-containing cannabis flower or concentrates for approval.
Idaho is one of three states that’s yet to pass any kind of marijuana reform legislation, the others being Kansas and Nebraska. Idaho also has some of the harshest marijuana laws in the US, where even possession of non-psychoactive CBD-derived products is considered a misdemeanor.