This afternoon, The Idaho Citizens Coalition turned in the initial twenty signatures of registered Idaho voters to begin the process of placing a marijuana decriminalization measure on the November 2022 ballot.
The Personal Adult Marijuana Decriminalization Act (PAMDA) if passed would only protect adults 21 and older from search, seizure, and arrest for the possession and use of up to three ounces of marijuana on private property with permission of the owner. PAMDA would also protect adults while transporting the marijuana they have purchased legally out-of-state from the store to their private property.
Outside the scope of personal use of private property, marijuana possession will still be treated as a criminal misdemeanor. So, for instance, someone who purchases marijuana in Ontario, Oregon, or Spokane, Washington, and then drives it back to their home in Boise or Coeur d’Alene would be safe from law enforcement, but if that person was caught with that marijuana in public, it would still be a crime.
“What we intend to do with PAMDA is to ‘legalize the drive,'” said Russ Belville, spokesman for the Idaho Citizens Coalition and Chief Petitioner of the measure. “Everyone knows Idahoans are driving across the border and bringing back home with them about $10 million worth of marijuana a month from legal stores. Every purchase in Oregon or Washington is a purchase not made from illegal marijuana dealers in Idaho and we should incentivize that, not penalize that.”
PAMDA creates no pot shops in Idaho, creates no marijuana grows in Idaho, and establishes no new bureaucracy in Idaho. “From our polling on medical marijuana, we found the people of Idaho are wary of home cannabis gardens and the corrupting influence of big marijuana businesses,” Belville explained. “But we’ve also found that Idahoans are huge supporters of personal privacy and keeping the government out of people’s personal lives. We feel PAMDA strikes the right balance by keeping marijuana grows, stores, dealing, and advertising illegal, while respecting the privacy of Idaho adults who simply prefer a joint over a beer when they want to relax at home.”
PAMDA is also meant to act as a backup for the Idaho Medical Marijuana Act (IMMA) that is currently circulating. IMMA would legalize medical marijuana possession of four ounces, allow certain patients with hardships to cultivate six cannabis plants, and establish a system of commercial grows, processors, and dispensaries, similar to most medical marijuana states.
“We are still wholeheartedly in support of medical marijuana for Idaho,” said Belville, “and will be collecting signatures for both initiatives in the field.”
But the IMMA faces a potential roadblock in the form of a new ‘single subject rule’ the Idaho Legislature established for initiatives in 2020. A similar rule in Nebraska caused their state Supreme Court to remove their medical marijuana initiative that had already made the ballot. The Court decided that allowing patients to have medical marijuana and giving patients a place to buy medical marijuana were two separate subjects.
“We’re worried about the ‘single subject rule’ invalidating the IMMA, since it, like Nebraska’s 2020 initiative, provides medical marijuana possession and medical marijuana commerce,” said Belville. “Should someone sue and Idaho’s Supreme Court make a similar decision, we’ll have PAMDA ready to go, which is clearly a single subject initiative.”
But PAMDA starts with a hurdle that IMMA doesn’t have to face—statewide approval. In April, the Idaho Legislature passed a new law requiring initiatives to gather signatures equaling six percent of the registered voters in each of all thirty-five state legislative districts, a Herculean task. By contrast, IMMA was filed in February, so it still must comport with the previous law requiring six percent in just eighteen of thirty-five districts.
“I won’t lie; the 35-district rule will make it all but impossible to place PAMDA on the ballot,” Belville opined. “However, the state is being sued over that rule by Reclaim Idaho, the group that placed and passed the only successful initiative since the 18-district rule was implemented. Should their suit succeed, we’d be subject to either the previous 18-district rule or, if we’re lucky, the court invalidates all district requirements and returns Idaho to the original standard of six percent statewide, regardless of district. In either of those cases, we feel our chances of making the ballot with PAMDA are solid.”
PAMDA and IMMA will both need to collect 64,946 signatures and meet their legislative district thresholds by May 1, 2022, to make the ballot. Learn more about the PAMDA initiative here.