While other states warm up to legalizing recreational marijuana use, Idaho senators are considering a new way to ban psychoactive drugs — by putting it in the state’s constitution.
State Sen. C. Scott Grow, R-Eagle, introduced a constitutional amendment Monday that would put the prohibition in the Idaho Constitution instead of just code, which would make it more difficult to legalize psychoactive drugs in the future.
The new section of the constitution would ban “the production, manufacture, transportation, sale, delivery, dispensing, distribution, possession, or use of a psychoactive drug” unless it’s approved by the Food and Drug Administration and lawfully prescribed.
Grow said the point is to prevent the “erosion” of such laws in Idaho’s code. He criticized states that recently legalized drugs and said that if Idaho follows their lead, the state would jeopardize its “values and way of life.” Grow has a long list of Senate co-sponsors behind him, including Senate President Pro-Tem Chuck Winder.
“Neighboring states have legalized controlled substances to the detriment of their children, families and communities,” Grow said.
The legislation comes shortly after voters in more conservative states, such as Montana and Arizona, approved recreational marijuana use during the November election. Oregon voters in November also approved a measure that decriminalizes small amounts of a range of street drugs and reduces penalties for larger amounts.
Idaho — which does not allow medical marijuana — is now surrounded by border states that have legalized the drug in some capacity, with the exception of Wyoming. Washington, Oregon, Nevada and Montana have legalized recreational pot, while Utah allows medical marijuana. A total of 36 states have approved medical marijuana use, while 15 have allowed recreational use.
Banning pot hasn’t stopped Idaho residents from buying it. An economic analysis released by Oregon last year showed marijuana sales along the Idaho border were up 420% the statewide average.
The constitutional amendment introduced Monday would need two-thirds approval from both the House and the Senate. If legislators support it with a supermajority, the measure would go on the ballot for Idaho voters to approve or reject in the 2022 general election.
Sen. Grant Burgoyne, D-Boise, said he “very reluctantly” opposed introducing the measure. He said the amendment has a serious technical flaw in putting Idaho code references into the state’s constitution — when Idaho code is often revised and change over time.
“Generally, I’m in favor of debating almost everything … but this is not one of them,” Burgoyne said Monday.
Russ Belville — spokesperson for The Idaho Citizens Coalition for Cannabis, a group pushing to legalize marijuana in the state — said Grow’s legislation is a desperate attempt to hold back what’s unavoidable for Idaho.
“It’s a ‘Hail Mary’ pass by the Idaho Legislature to stop the changes in marijuana laws they know are inevitable,” Belville said in a statement Monday. “It’s not just desperate legislation, it’s also flawed legislation.”