Idaho activists have begun collecting signatures for a medical marijuana legalization initiative that they hope to place on the state’s 2024 ballot.
The Kind Idaho campaign officially launched in August, with advocates filing the required paperwork with the state to start the signature drive. After getting sign-off on their language from state officials in mid-October, activists started collecting signatures for the measure, which is virtually identical to ones that group filed in 2020 and 2022 that did not end up making the ballot.
In order to qualify, the campaign must turn in valid signatures from at least seven percent of registered voters in the state—including at least seven percent of voters in a minimum of 18 of Idaho’s 35 legislative districts—by April 14, 2024.
If the measure ultimately appears on the ballot and is approved by voters, patients with qualifying conditions would be able to purchase cannabis at state-licensed dispensaries, and those unable to access or afford dispensaries could grow up to six plants at home.
Jackee Winters, chair of Kind Idaho, posted a video on Facebook last week to go over the various provisions of the reform initiative and urge residents to get involved and sign the petition, which she said the campaign would print and mail out to voters who can’t visit a signature drive station in person.
“We want it…on the ballot in 2024, where we can all vote in Idaho to have a voice,” she said. “We don’t want to lose our voice and we don’t want to be the last ones to get medical marijuana, either.”
Here’s what the proposed ballot initiative would accomplish:
Allow access to cannabis for registered patients with chronic diseases or conditions, or for people with a terminal illness who doctors say have less than a year to live. Fees for one-year registration cards could not exceed $100.
Allow qualified patients or caretakers to possess up to four ounces of marijuana, defined as all parts of the cannabis plant, including derivatives, containing “any of the chemical substances classified as tetrahydrocannabinols, (THC).
Enable patients or their caregivers who qualify for a “hardship cultivation designation” to grow up to six cannabis plants in an enclosed, locked facility. Hardship designations would be granted based on financial hardship, inability to travel to a dispensary or the lack of a dispensary near a patient’s home.
Qualify patients with cancer, glaucoma, HIV or AIDS, hepatitis C, ALS, Chron’s disease, Alzheiemer’s disease, PTSD, inflammatory bowel disease, Huntington’s disease or Tourette syndrome. Patients would also be eligible with any medical condition or treatment that produces cachexia or wasting syndrome, severe or chronic pain, severe nausea, seizures, or persistent muscle spasms. Further qualifying conditions could be added by regulators, including in response to a petition from any Idaho resident.
License medical marijuana retail dispensaries, production facilities, and safety compliance facilities. Applications would be evaluated based on a ranked scoring system, and facilities could not be located within 1,000 feet of schools.
Establish a 4 percent excise tax on cannabis sales to patients or caregivers. After covering the costs of the program, half the remaining proceeds would go to the Idaho Division of Veterans Services, and the other half would flow into the state’s general fund.
Empower the Department of Health and Welfare to license and regulate the state’s medical marijuana program, requiring it to adopt rules within 120 days of the measure becoming law.
Cities and counties could also set their own zoning ordinances and regulations.
Allow medical marijuana cardholders from other states to access the program.
Prohibit certain forms of discrimination against cannabis patients, or others involved in legal cannabis conduct, in education, housing, state and local gun laws, medical care and employment. Under state law surrounding discrimination, marijuana would be treated similarly to prescribed pharmaceuticals.
The same group sought to place a measure to put medical cannabis legalization on the state ballot this year, but organizers later said they didn’t collect enough signatures. Kind Idaho says that it’s confident that the reform will make it across the finish line this round.
Joe Evans of Kind Idaho told Marijuana Moment that there were some “cosmetic” changes from the group’s last petition, while a more substantive one concerns removal of the need for patients to have a valid medical cannabis registration in order to protect their parental or firearms rights.
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A poll released this month shows that 68 percent of Idaho adults support legalizing medical cannabis and that a plurality of 48 percent back recreational marijuana legalization.
Attempts to let Idaho voters weigh in on cannabis reform have proved especially challenging in recent years, due in part to efforts by state officials to make it harder to qualify ballot initiatives.
In 2020, during 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 was being temporarily permitted under a federal judge’s order in a separate campaign. State officials, however, rejected the request.
Lawmakers the following year attempted to block marijuana legalization preemptively, even if voters were to approve it at the ballot. The Senate passed a bill declaring that “the production, manufacture, transportation, sale, delivery, dispensing, distribution, possession, or use of a psychoactive drug shall not be permitted in the state of Idaho.” That measure later died in the House.
Lawmakers also passed a law that restricted the petitioning process for putting initiatives on the ballot, but state Supreme Court struck down the law last August.
Another reform proposal, which would have legalized possession of up to three ounces of cannabis by adults 21 and older at their own homes, was cleared for signature-gathering in July 2021. But by this January, again facing a surge of COVID cases, the campaign said organizers would be suspending signature-gathering in the interest of public health.
Meanwhile, five states voted on adult-use marijuana legalization initiatives at the ballot during this month’s midterm elections, and two of those (Maryland and Missouri) approved them, becoming the 20th and 21st states to enact the reform.
Last month, the governor of Oklahoma called for a special election in March 2023 for voters to decide on marijuana legalization.
Photo courtesy of Brian Shamblen.