Idaho activists have begun collecting signatures for a medical marijuana legalization initiative that they hope to put on the state’s 2024 ballot.
The Child Idaho campaign officially launched in August, and advocates submitted the necessary paperwork to the state to start the signature drive. After getting their language approved by state officials in mid-October, activists began collecting signatures for the measure, which is virtually identical to those the group submitted in 2020 and 2022, which ended up not going to a vote.
To qualify, the campaign must submit valid signatures by April 14, 2024 from at least seven percent of the registered voters in the state — including at least seven percent of voters in at least 18 of Idaho’s 35 legislative districts.
If the measure eventually appears on the ballot and is approved by voters, patients with qualifying conditions could purchase cannabis from state-licensed dispensaries, and those who do not have access to dispensaries or cannot afford dispensaries could purchase up to six plants at home plant.
Kind Idaho Chairwoman Jackie Winters posted a video on Facebook last week going through the various provisions of the reform initiative and urging residents to get involved and sign the petition, which the campaign would print and mail to voters who do so You cannot visit a Signature Drive station in person.
“We want it … to be on the ballot in 2024 where we can all vote in Idaho to have a vote,” she said. “We don’t want to lose our voice, and we don’t want to be the last to get medical marijuana.”
Here is what the proposed ballot initiative would achieve:
Provide access to cannabis for registered patients with chronic illnesses or conditions, or for people with a terminal illness who doctors say have less than a year to live. Annual registration card fees could not exceed $100.
Allow qualifying patient or caregiver possession of up to four ounces of marijuana, defined as any part of the cannabis plant, including derivatives, that “contain any chemical substance classified as tetrahydrocannabinols (THC).
Allow patients or their caregivers who qualify for hardship grow labeling to grow up to six cannabis plants in a closed, gated facility. Hardship cases would be awarded on the basis of financial difficulty, inability to travel to a pharmacy, or lack of a pharmacy close to where a patient lives.
Qualify patients with cancer, glaucoma, HIV or AIDS, hepatitis C, ALS, Crohn’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, PTSD, inflammatory bowel disease, Huntington’s disease or Tourette’s syndrome. Patients with any medical condition or treatment that causes cachexia or wasting syndrome, severe or chronic pain, severe nausea, seizures, or persistent muscle spasms would also be eligible. Additional qualifying conditions may be added by regulators, including in response to a petition from an Idaho resident.
License retail medical marijuana dispensaries, manufacturing facilities and safety compliance facilities. Applications would be evaluated based on a ranking system, and facilities could not be within 1,000 feet of schools.
Introduce a 4 percent excise tax on cannabis sales to patients or caregivers. After covering the costs of the program, half of the remaining proceeds would go to the Idaho Division of Veterans Services and the other half would go to the state’s general fund.
Authorize the Department of Health and Human Services to license and regulate the state’s medical marijuana program and require it to issue regulations within 120 days of the measure’s entry into force.
Cities and counties could also enact their own zoning ordinances and regulations.
Allow out-of-state medical marijuana cardholders to access the program.
Prohibit certain forms of discrimination against cannabis patients or others engaged in legal cannabis conduct in the areas of education, housing, state and local gun laws, medical care, and employment. Under state discrimination laws, marijuana would be treated similarly to prescription drugs.
The same group tried to put a measure to legalize medicinal cannabis on the state vote this year, but organizers later said they hadn’t collected enough signatures. Kind Idaho says it’s confident reform will cross the finish line this round.
Kind Idaho’s Joe Evans told Marijuana Moment that there have been some “cosmetic” changes from the group’s last petition, while a more substantive one involves removing the need for patients to have a valid medical cannabis registration to protect their parental or firearm rights protection .
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A poll released this month shows that 68 percent of Idaho adults support legalizing medical cannabis and a majority of 48 percent support legalizing recreational marijuana.
Attempts to get Idaho voters involved in cannabis reform have proven particularly challenging in recent years, in part due to efforts by state officials to make voting initiatives more difficult to qualify.
In 2020, in the early months of the COVID pandemic, organizers at the Idaho Cannabis Coalition asked the Secretary of State for permission to collect signatures electronically, as temporarily allowed by order of a federal judge in a separate campaign. State officials, however, denied the request.
Lawmakers the following year attempted to preemptively block marijuana legalization even if voters voted in favor of it. The Senate passed legislation stating that “the manufacture, manufacture, transportation, sale, supply, dispensing, distribution, possession, or use of any psychoactive drug shall not be authorized in the State of Idaho.” This measure later died in the house.
Legislators also passed a law restricting the petition process for the inclusion of voting initiatives, but the state Supreme Court overturned the law last August.
Another proposed reform that would have legalized the possession of up to three ounces of cannabis by adults aged 21 and over in their own homes was opened for signature collection in July 2021. The campaign said organizers would suspend signature collection in the interests of public health .
Meanwhile, five states voted on adult-use marijuana legalization initiatives when voting during this month’s midterm elections, and two of them (Maryland and Missouri) approved them, becoming the 20th and 21st states to pass the reform enacted.
Last month, the Oklahoma governor called for a special election in March 2023 to allow voters to decide whether to legalize marijuana.
Activists in Arkansas, Florida, Nebraska and other states are also targeting cannabis reform elections in 2024.
DEA legalizes cocaine derivatives while also fighting back critics who say marijuana should get similar treatment
Photo courtesy of Brian Shamblen.