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Idaho Activists Launch Cannabis Legalization Campaign for 2022 Ballot

Marijuana reform activists have launched separate campaigns to put two cannabis legalization questions to voters on the 2022 ballot.

The first effort is limited to legalizing possession of up to three ounces of cannabis at private residences for adults 21 and older. As the text of the proposal reads, the Personal Adult Marijuana Decriminalization Act (PAMDA) would end “civil and criminal penalties for what are now personal marijuana possession misdemeanors.”

Idaho has some of the strictest marijuana laws in the country, with possession of up to three ounces treated as a misdemeanor that carries the potential for jail time of one year and a $1,000 fine.

The activists handed in the required 20 signatures to start the ballot process for the adult-use legalization initiative, which would not allow for legal, regulated sales of marijuana. While cannabis possession in public would remain a criminal offense, the wording of the ballot measure allows for “transporting a personal amount of marijuana from a jurisdiction where the marijuana was legally purchased.”

This means that while there would be no dispensaries to legally buy marijuana in Idaho, residents could obtain cannabis from retailers in neighboring legal states like Montana, Oregon and Nevada and then bring it back home. Activists hope the limited scope of the recreational measure means it stands a better chance of getting approved.

“All we want to do is make it legal for you to go across the border, buy your marijuana, bring it back home and smoke it,” said Russ Belville, one of the activists behind the campaign, in a promotional video.

“It’s personal, adult marijuana decriminalization—three ounce as long as you keep it on private property,” he said. “So if they catch you in the park with weed, they catch you at the ballgame with weed, it’s still weed, you’re still busted. This is a very limited decriminalization of just three ounces at home.”

The second campaign seeks to legalize medical marijuana in Idaho and is led by the same group that attempted to put a medical cannabis question on last year’s ballot but didn’t succeed, largely due to the complications of collecting signatures during the coronavirus pandemic. The activists got the ball rolling for 2022’s effort earlier this year, with the secretary of state approving the initiative and submitting an official petition for signature-gathering purposes.

The renewed effort comes at a time when Idaho lawmakers are looking at a more restrictive medical marijuana proposal that’s working its way through the legislature, which the activists worry could harm the prospects of their more expansive initiative as voters may feel there’s already adequate allowances in place for medical cannabis use.

The citizen-led initiative would allow qualifying patients with one or more of twelve listed conditions to purchase and possess up to four ounces of marijuana, while those with limited income could apply to grow up to six plants for personal use at home. Individuals with a terminal disease or a severe chronic ailment would also be permitted to use medical marijuana upon a physician’s recommendation. The state Department of Health would also have the power to add more qualifying conditions to the list as it deems appropriate.

Both the medical marijuana and limited legalization campaigns have a deadline of May 1, 2022, by which they must hand in at least 65,000 valid signatures in support of their proposal in order to make it onto the 2022 ballot.

The signature-gathering process is somewhat complicated by a bill signed into law by the governor earlier this year which stipulates that each of the state’s 35 legislative districts must be represented by a minimum of six percent of the signatures in order to qualify. Previously, the requirement only covered 18 of Idaho’s districts. However, this rule change is being challenged by two lawsuits that are currently awaiting a hearing in the state Supreme Court. The outcome of this could largely determine whether either campaign is successful in getting its proposal before voters in 2022.

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