Friday afternoon on the steps of Idaho’s Capitol a group of people plan to break the law. It’s a protest that could come with some serious repercussions for those involved.
Idaho has some of the strictest marijuana laws in the country. If Serra Frank is caught with an ounce, she could reasonably expect to pay a $1,000 fine and spend a year in jail. But Frank says she will be smoking pot at the Capitol on January 1 anyway.
The mother of three says without marijuana to manage constant pain from a chronic bladder condition, she would be dependent on dangerous prescription drugs and not able to care for her kids.
Frank is the founder of Idaho Moms for Marijuana and co-founder of New Approach Idaho. The purpose of the protest is to raise awareness about a ballot initiative New Approach is sponsoring.
If New Approach can gather enough signatures, Idaho voters would have the option to legalize medical marijuana and decriminalize non-medical possession. Similar initiatives in Idaho have fallen far short of the necessary signatures. Idaho is among a minority of states that have not legalized or decriminalized marijuana to some extent.
The protest scheduled for 4:00 Friday will not be the first time Frank has chanced jail by lighting up in public. The activist was part of a similar protest in downtown Boise New Year’s Day five years ago. She says Boise Police were there but chose not to arrest anyone.
“I have been speaking with the Idaho State Police who are in charge of the Capitol building,” Frank says. “And they have informed me that if they see any violations of the law that they will…proceed. Civil disobedience, you know, is a risky thing. It is willingly breaking the law on the basis that you are willing to get caught and willing to go to jail to raise the consciousness of the public to this issue. This is a conversation the public needs to have.”
Frank says the risk of extended jail time is worth it to get Idaho talking more about medical marijuana. She says some protesters won’t be smoking but she and others will, though she doesn’t know how many.
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