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IMMA Campaign Suspends for Coronavirus Pandemic

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Gov. Brad Little’s announcement of a 21-day shelter-in-place order and CDC recommendations for social distancing in effect for the month of April have caused the Idaho Cannabis Coalition to suspended our active campaign to gather signatures for the Idaho Medical Marijuana Act petition. As an all-volunteer effort, we were relying on every opportunity to gather the 55,057 statewide registered voters’ signatures needed by May 1 to qualify for the November ballot. With every major spring public event cancelled, we are now focusing on distributing petitions through online download at IdahoCann.co and encouraging every volunteer who has downloaded a petition to get them turned in to their county clerk’s office by mail, regardless of how many signatures they have collected.

Our campaign, along with two other initiative petitions this cycle, had implored the legislature and governor to extend the deadline for signature gathering, or to provide an electronic means of collecting signatures, due to the coronavirus outbreak. Our pleas fell on deaf ears; however, the legislature passed and the governor signed into law an electronic means to remove signatures from an initiative petition.

Since our campaign is so volunteer-driven, we can’t provide a verifiable estimate of signature collection so far. The realities of verifying signatures (many signers who say they are registered voters turn out not to be) and Idaho’s extra hurdle of requiring a threshold of six percent of registered voters from a majority (18 of 35) legislative districts mean the odds are against Idahoans being able to vote on medical marijuana in November of 2020.

We are excited to see our fellow activists in places like Mississippi and South Dakota qualifying medical marijuana initiatives for their elections. However, should South Dakota pass its medical marijuana initiative, we are saddened by the thought that Idaho could then become the last political jurisdiction in all of North America to criminalize the possession and use any amount of THC by patients for medical purposes. 

Nevertheless, we will persist. If medical marijuana does not make the 2020 Idaho ballot, we will file immediately to begin the process of placing it on the 2022 ballot. The need for medical marijuana access for sick and disabled Idahoans is not going away, and neither are we.

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Sign the Petition – Leg 4

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We began the second half of the Sign the Petition Tour by making two stops in one county for the first time. First, we stopped in the county seat of Valley County in Cascade, but there were not many people willing to pull over and sign.

Chief Petitioner John Belville at the McCall Centennial Plaza

So we drove farther north to McCall, the resort town on beautiful Payette Lake. They have undergone a remarkable downtown renovation since my last days there in the 1990s as a working musician. Dad gathered signatures from the moment we stopped into Lardo’s Restaurant, a McCall mainstay. By the end of our visit, we had filled more than two petitions.

From there we headed north and across two important boundaries – the one for Pacific Time and the other for the 45th parallel. That means the sun sets at around 4:30pm, rendering our stop in Lewiston too dark to be useful. We postponed that stop to the morning and cancelled our stop in Orofino, which we have now added to next weekend’s tour.

Chief Petitioner John Belville in front of (literally) The Store in Nezperce, the smallest county seat in Idaho.

The Tour returns to the North Idaho Panhandle by way of Hell’s Canyon next week, with stops in Payette, Weiser, and Council in southwestern Idaho, then all the way up to Orofino, St. Maries, Wallace, Bonners Ferry, Coeur d’Alene, and Sandpoint in the panhandle.

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Sign the Petition – Leg 3

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Chief Petitioner John Belville returned to the land of his birth (Shelley, ID) for Leg 3 of the Sign the Petition Tour. With this trip to Blackfoot, Idaho Falls, Rigby, Rexburg, St. Anthony, Driggs, Dubois, and Arco, John has now visited over half (23) of the counties in Idaho!

Spokesman Russ Belville with Region VII Captain Nathaniel Snow-Pickering

The only difficult day we had was in Rexburg, where two city police officers parked across the street, down about half a block, but close enough where they could watch everybody who pulled in to sign the petition. We had many people drive by and give thumbs up, but they seemed to not want to stop and be watched by police in the hometown of BYU-Idaho.

Rexburg’s Finest, making sure no crimes occur while a 77-year-old man stands on a cold windy street corner gathering signatures on a petition.

Our trip to Idaho’s least populated county (Clark) landed us in the town of Dubois, where we had the lowest signature count of the tour. Just ONE person signed the petition… but that one person was a formerly-incarcerated person who believed she did not have the right to vote.

We explained to her that in Idaho once you’ve completed your felony probation and parole (i.e., “off papers”), your right to vote is automatically restored. She was thrilled, explaining how it has been over 20 years since she has voted. We registered her on the spot and she signed the petition.

Shortly after, we were visited by a Clark County Sheriff. He was cordial and made no attempt to stop our petitioning. He explained how he wanted it legal for medical use, but worried about how that would creep over into recreational use. I asked why a sick person using cannabis was OK, but someone using it for fun needs to be locked up. “It’s the law,” he shrugged. “Not for long,” I answered.

Russ and John with Teton County Lieutenant Dr. Daphne Stoner at the Teton Geotourism Center in Driggs
Marty Moose says, “Sign the Petition!”

The Sign the Petition Tour returns on the weekend of December 6-7-8, as John and Russ visit Cascade & McCall (Valley County), Grangeville (Idaho), Nezperce (Lewis), Lewiston (Nez Perce), Moscow (Latah), and Orofino (Clearwater). Check IdahoCann.co for times and places – some may have changed since you first looked!

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Sign the Petition – Leg 2

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Chief Petitioner John Belville has visited ONE-THIRD of Idaho’s counties (15) in two weekends, collecting hundreds of signatures for the Idaho Medical Marijuana Act.

Shout out to the go-getters in the IMMA Volunteer Army, like Dave Lybolt, our Region VI Captain, who hooked us up with TV media coverage for our stop in Pocatello (Bannock County) Saturday.

(L-R) Russ Belville, Dave Lybolt, John Belville

And welcome to Hannah Lee, who appeared on the scene in Montpelier (Bear Lake County) when we switched locations at the last moment. Having never been there, we didn’t realize the county seat of Paris wasn’t a good location for traffic. She rounded up a petition’s worth of signatures herself, then volunteered to take a Commando Packet and fill five more.

We’ve got the people on our side. What we need are more Daves and Hannahs, all across the state, in every county and good-sized town, dedicated to filling petitions with signatures of registered Idaho voters.

If you want to get involved, click the Volunteer link on the menu. That will get you subscribed to our IMMA Volunteer Army email and let you choose how you can donate some of your time to the cause.

We’ve gotten our campaign bank account, under the name IDAHO CITIZENS COALITION, because banks are still reticent to deal with the word “cannabis,” even as we assured them we are a civic organization and have nothing to do with actual cannabis being bought, sold, possessed, or used.

You can mail checks or money orders made out to IDAHO CITIZENS COALITION to our headquarters at the soon-to-open Boise Hemp World in the Northgate Shopping Center, 6928 W State St, Boise ID 83709. (We will be able to take online donations though our website, this Facebook page, and popular cash apps soon.)

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