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Politics & Government

Idaho Senate Committee Signs Off On Anti-Drug Constitutional Amendment

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State lawmakers are considering making psychoactive drugs like marijuana illegal under Idaho’s constitution. It passed out of a Senate committee Friday.

The amendment’s sponsor, Sen. Scott Grow (R-Eagle), gave a dire warning about where Idaho would be headed if the state legalized marijuana.

“This may be our last chance to choose between the culture we have enjoyed in the past and the culture now evident in the states around us,” Grow said.

Marijuana is already illegal under state law and this would make it impossible to legalize the drug through a ballot initiative in the future.

Republican supporters say crime is higher in neighboring states that have legalized weed and other drugs. But crime statistics from 2019 show Idaho reports two to four times more drug cases per capita and has much higher arrest rates for drug offenses than Oregon and Washington.

Voters in Oregon last year passed an initiative decriminalizing small amounts of illegal drugs. Both states legalized recreational marijuana several years ago.

Sen. Grant Burgoyne (D-Boise), one of two Democrats on the committee who voted against the proposal, said this amendment won’t help people who are addicted to drugs.

“We view them not as the victims that they are of illegal drug pushers,” Burgoyne said. “We view them as the criminal.”

The proposed amendment does make an exception for psychoactive drugs approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration. It also doesn’t affect Idaho’s “right to try” law, allowing terminally ill patients to take experimental drugs.

Jeremy Kitzhaber, a retired Air Force veteran with terminal stage 4 cancer who testified against the proposed amendment earlier this week, said his doctors wouldn’t prescribe him medical marijuana. An oncologist also testified that he didn’t believe the law allowed him to do so, since marijuana is illegal in Idaho.

Senate Minority Leader Michelle Stennett (D-Ketchum) said she couldn’t support the measure because she’s had family members terminally ill with cancer. Her husband, Clint Stennett – a former state lawmaker himself – died of brain cancer in 2010. 

She called the proposal “extraordinarily cruel.”

A bipartisan bill to legalize medical marijuana is expected to be introduced next week. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 36 states have legalized medical marijuana and 15 states have legalized recreational marijuana.

Grow’s proposed constitutional amendment now heads to the Senate floor. It needs to get two-thirds approval from both the House and Senate. It would then go before voters in 2022 where it only needs a simple majority to take effect.

Follow James Dawson on Twitter @RadioDawson for more local news.

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