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Idaho House Committee Green Lights Anti-Drug Constitutional Amendment

Park Ranger
Flickr Creative Commons

A proposed constitutional amendment that would make it impossible for Idahoans to legalize marijuana through a ballot initiative is headed to the House.

Under this proposal, any attempt to legalize marijuana or other drugs would need two-thirds approval from both the Idaho House and Senate. Such a threshold is currently only required for procedural moves and passage of a constitutional amendment.

Rep. Gayann DeMordaunt (R-Eagle) said Idaho needs to protect its children and communities against drugs.

“We have to buttress our state against Oregon-style, and now Washington-style, drugs,” DeMordaunt said.

Last year, Oregon voters decriminalized small amounts of drugs while increasing addiction treatment services, which went into effect in February. Washington lawmakers are considering a similar proposal.

Many who testified Thursday, including ex-law enforcement, supported the proposed amendment. But Monica McKinley, who lives in Ada County, said lawmakers shouldn’t be tampering with Idaho’s founding document for this, even though she doesn’t like drugs or alcohol “of any kind.”

“Using the [Idaho Constitution] for drug policy is wrong,” McKinley said. “It will not stop drug addiction in any way and all of the issues that come with it.”

This is the second attempt to pass such a constitutional amendment this year. State senators signed off on the original version by one vote more than a month ago, but many lawmakers had concerns about it due to technical reasons.

The proposed amendment needs support from two-thirds of lawmakers in the House and Senate before it could be put to voters in 2022.

Conservative legislators have been concerned about the possibility of legalizing medical or recreational marijuana through a ballot initiative for years.

But they may be misreading public opinion.

Advocates told the Idaho Press that a 2019 poll from FM3 Research found 72% of Idahoans are in favor of legalizing medical marijuana. A bipartisan bill that would do so was introduced more than a month ago and has yet to receive a public hearing in a House committee.

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

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I cover politics and a bit of everything else for Boise State Public Radio. Outside of public meetings, you can find me fly fishing, making cool things out of leather or watching the Seattle Mariners' latest rebuilding season. If you have a tip, please get in touch!