Leaders of pro-cannabis movements are confident that – with recent victories in states like Montana and South Dakota – Idaho is ready for a big change in marijuana policy.
COVID-19 Halts Weed Legalization in Idaho
Earlier this year, Idaho marijuana activists were hard at work collecting signatures. In order to get medical weed legalization on the ballot in November, petitioners would have to collect over 55 thousand signatures by May 1st. When April 2020 rolled around, Idaho Cannabis Coalition (ICC) volunteers had already collected the names of over 40 thousand Idahoans, but the threat of COVID-19 would soon put the entire operation in jeopardy. After a series of campaign cancellations across the country, the ICC announced that volunteers would no longer be conducting in-person signature collecting.
While the campaign attempted to refocus their efforts on digital petition distribution and collection, their efforts fell short, and activists were forced to set their sights on the future. Commenting on the loss, Idaho Cannabis Coalition spokesperson Russ Belville said, “we will file immediately to begin the process of placing it on the 2022 ballot. The need for medical marijuana access for sick and disabled Idahoans is not going away, and neither are we”.
2022 Idaho Medical Marijuana Initiative
In October, just a few months following the disappointing end to the 2020 campaign, Idaho advocates submitted an initiative to include medical marijuana on the 2022 ballot. The proposal remains widely the same as the 2020 measure, and the campaign will once again be required to gather at least 55,057 valid signatures to qualify. However, the big advantage for cannabis advocates is in the full 18-month signature gathering period this time around.
Other states in the nation are similarly getting a head start on their 2022 campaigns. Nebraska cannabis advocates, following a state Supreme Court decision that invalidated their efforts toward the 2020 ballot, are already collecting signatures in hopes of a 2022 victory. If Idaho moves in the same direction, state residents could be voting on the cannabis reform proposal in just a couple years.
The proposed Idaho Medical Marijuana Act would allow patients with qualifying conditions to possess up to four ounces and grow up to six plants of cannabis, with a physician’s recommendation.
The Push to Include Recreational Pot on Idaho’s 2022 Ballot
A plethora of pro-cannabis outcomes in the 2020 election quickly enthused Idahoan activists. In a recent interview, ICC spokesperson Belville exclaimed, “we’re excited about the prospects for recreational marijuana legalization in Idaho for 2022. With South Dakota’s passage . . . we know a red state can do it. With Montana’s legalization passing, we know it’s popular in this region”.
When it comes to remaining economically competitive, the benefits of legalization are obvious. Between Washington, Oregon, Montana, and Nevada – Idaho is surrounded by legal adult-use cannabis states. When asked about the money Idaho is losing to surrounding states’ economies, Belville continued, “the little border town of Ontario, Oregon has sold over $50 million of marijuana in the past six months, and we know most of that money is coming from the Boise Metro Area . . . That’s going to work out to about $6 million Idaho could’ve made on sales tax alone, every year”.
And while tackling medical and recreational legalization simultaneously is sure to have its difficulties, there’s a recent precedent for the effort. In 2020, measures to legalize medical and recreational cannabis were passed by South Dakota voters with a 69.9% and 54.2% margin, respectively. In hopes of reaching similar results, adult-use efforts in Idaho are hiring signature gathering firms to be ready to get to work by March of 2021.
“The demand is there and it’s now just a question of organizing the fundraising necessary for the professional signature gathering required in a state like Idaho,” Belville continued. “If you are an Idaho resident who would like to volunteer to help us out, please let me know. We’ll need all the help we can get”.
While details on Idaho’s recreational proposal are limited, leading advocates are hopeful that Idahoans are ready for full cannabis policy reform.
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