Idaho's budding marijuana crisis

Posted at 9:30 PM, Nov 10, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-10 23:30:16-05

Tuesday's election was a major milestone for marijuana legislation. California, Massachusetts, and Nevada legalized the use of recreational marijuana. But legal weed is not hard to find for an Idaho resident. In fact, it's just a short drive across the border.

Huntington, Oregon is about an hour-and-a-half drive from Boise. The small town is doing big business.

Though Huntington has a population of slightly more than 400 people, between 200 and 300 people a day are making a visit to 420Ville, a medical marijuana distributor that allows customers to legally purchase recreational weed.

"I would say a large percentage of our customers are not based out of Oregon," 420Ville's President of Operations Scott Matthews says. "We get quite a few from Oregon, but a there's a large contingency from Idaho."

Matthews says some travel hundreds of miles to 420Ville to purchase pot legally rather than illegally through a local dealer.

"There's a lot of excitement," Matthews says. "It's fun. We have 12 people on our staff. We call them 'bud tenders'; they're all ladies and they're laughing all day long. People are excited, they come in, yes, because it's legal." 

While purchasing marijuana in Oregon is legal for an Idaho resident, crossing the border with pot is a different story. 

"The law is the law," Cpl. Curt Sproat with Idaho State Police says. 

Sproat has been with ISP for four years. Sproat says he's seen an increase in marijuana related arrests and seizures since it became legal along Idaho's western border starting in 2014.

"I deal with that weekly, if not monthly," Sproat says. "People coming through may have a medical marijuana card in one state and come to Idaho and say, 'Hey, I bought it legally', but, once you get into Idaho, it's illegal so it doesn't really matter."

Matthews says his customers are asked to sign releases stating they won't cross state borders with their purchases. 

With Nevada and California legalizing the use of recreational marijuana on Nov. 8, troopers expect to see the use and transport of weed increase even more in the future.

"The more state that legalize it, the more it's going to come to Idaho and through Idaho," Sproat says.

As for now, Idaho may be on the border, but the state is not on the fence with where it stands on marijuana legalization.

"We don't have any say in what the law is, we just enforce it," Sproat says.

"Idaho has to learn that this is going to happen," Matthews says. "It's happening."

Residents in California and Nevada will not be able to purchase weed legally in those states until 2018.