Unintended Consequences of HJR 4
Sen. C. Scott Grow’s proposed constitutional drug prohibition amendment, HJR 4, would confuse voters, endanger Right to Try, and inflame the opioid epidemic.
Unfair “Bait and Switch”
Proponents of constitutional drug prohibition say it gives Idahoans a chance to determine Idaho’s future. However, if a proposed medical marijuana initiative and constitutional drug prohibition are on the same 2022 ballot, well-meaning Idahoans who support medical marijuana and oppose illegal drugs might not realize a vote for the prohibition trumps their vote for medical marijuana.
Idahoans should get a chance to vote on medical marijuana. Polls show three-quarters of Idahoans—including three-fifths of Mormons, Republicans, and seniors—support the issue. But if there’s a 50% vote for prohibition, it cancels any 75% vote for medical marijuana. That’s patently undemocratic.
HJR 4 fights a battle that doesn’t exist. Nobody in Idaho is organizing to legalize drugs. The only organized effort in Idaho now is to legalize medical marijuana. That effort has never secured any serious out-of-state funding. Ironically, putting a drug prohibition amendment on the ballot could be the only thing that actually does draw billionaire drug policy funders in to support a competing medical marijuana initiative in 2022.
Canada has legalized marijuana. Mexico is legalizing marijuana this month. New Mexico will legalize soon. Wyoming is holding hearings on legalization. The feds are set to legalize cannabis banking and remove it from the national drug schedule. HJR 4 will tie the future legislature’s hands in being able to position Idaho in the continental cannabis economy.
Undoes “Right to Try”
Idaho passed a Right to Try law that allows terminally ill patients to possess and use drugs not yet approved by the FDA but have passed Phase 1 clinical trials. Such trials include some currently illegal drugs, like psilocybin and MDMA.
HJR 4 declares that any drug in Schedule I or II as of July 1, 2021, can only be “made lawful for purposes of… possession or use” by a two-thirds vote of the legislature. It further declares that “nothing… prohibits the… possession or use of a controlled substance to the extent that such activity was lawful as of July 1, 2021.”
So, a controlled substance on June 30, 2021, that is in FDA Phase 1 clinical trials being used by a terminal patient would be “lawful activity” under Right to Try. But on July 2, 2021, possession or use of a controlled substance can only be made a “lawful activity” by a two-thirds vote of the Legislature. A terminal patient will have to wait for a legislative session and hope for a two-thirds vote before she passes away.
Hamstrings Efforts to Fight Opioid Epidemic
According to CDC, in 2018, Idaho providers wrote 61.9 opioid prescriptions for every 100 persons compared to the average U.S. rate of 51.4 prescriptions. Opioid overdose deaths have been on a steady increase since 1999. Meanwhile, Oregon and Washington opioid overdoses are declining, and their prescription rates are near and below the national average.
That’s because numerous studies have confirmed that legal access to marijuana reduces opioid harms in every measure (see Marijuana and Opioids).