The Idaho Senate State Affairs committee today heard testimony on Senate Joint Resolution 101, a proposal by Sen. C. Scott Grow to place a constitutional amendment on the 2022 ballot that would prohibit legalizing medical marijuana in Idaho, as well as any other currently-regulated schedule I and II drugs under state law. It would further tie Idaho’s drug laws to the federal Food & Drug Administration (FDA), which would make it impossible to ever legalize medical marijuana, since the FDA is incapable of regulating plants.
Following is the written testimony we offered today, delivered by Bill Esbensen, Operations Manager for the Idaho Citizens Coalition, in opposition to this proposed marijuana prohibition amendment.
Madame Chair, Senators, thank you for the opportunity to testify. My name is Bill Esbensen and I represent the Idaho Citizens Coalition. We are the people that you are so afraid will pass medical and adult use marijuana that you’re willing to blow up the state constitution.
Let me be clear. Marijuana exists. It is here in Idaho. 113,000 Idaho adults currently use marijuana every month. Prohibition does not make marijuana disappear and legalization does not make it suddenly materialize.
With those facts in mind, let us look at the data. Currently, six marijuana shops in Ontario, Oregon, sell $8 million per month of marijuana, mostly to Idahoans.
They do not smoke it in Ontario. They bring it back to Idaho and smoke it here.
So, we get all the downsides of marijuana, but none of the tax revenue to deal with it.Idaho Citizens Coalition spokesperson Bill Esbensen
I heard that the mayor of Ontario is in support of this prohibition. That is no surprise. Why would he want Idahoans to stop contributing $240,000 per month in taxes to his city? Why would he not want to continue profiting on $8,000,000 of monthly sales with his interest in one of the shops?
We send all our marijuana money to Oregon and Washington border towns. Today, Jackpot, Nevada, commissioners are making plans for two shops there on the southern border. Soon, border shops in Montana will serve Eastern Idaho. By summer, half of all Idahoans will live within a one hour drive of a legal marijuana shop.
We have heard a lot of testimony from people about how terrible marijuana is. Much of that testimony is just fear mongering with no basis in scientific fact. The gateway drug theory was debunked by the feds in 1999. The legal marijuana states have seen no increase in teen use. The stats about marijuana and drivers are all based on tests that only show if you are a marijuana smoker, not that you are impaired by marijuana.
But even if all these reefer madness scare stories were true, that would argue for regulating marijuana and taxing it so we can use those dollars to deal with those problems. Every story you heard today about someone in Idaho having a terrible problem with marijuana happened while it is illegal. Making it permanently illegal is not going to change that.
Sen. Grow testified that he just wants Idaho voters to have a choice between medical marijuana, adult use marijuana, or keeping Idaho “drug-free.” But marijuana is already illegal in Idaho. All voters have to do to keep Idaho “drug-free” is vote no on both those initiatives.
But we are here today because Sen. Grow knows that the people will vote yes on both those initiatives. What the Senator proposes is a way to ban marijuana even if those initiatives pass.
As I am sure you know, amendments outrank initiatives. That means that if our medical marijuana initiative passed with 75%, like our polls show, and our adult use passed with 57%, like Montana just did, Sen. Grow’s amendment would only need to pass with 50.1% and those two initiatives would be invalid.
Then, if the people who supported those initiatives wanted to do something about that, they could not. It takes an amendment to repeal an amendment, and citizens cannot propose amendments in Idaho, only legislators can.
The fact that the Senator would use this tactic to try to stop a medical marijuana law that three-quarters of the people support and an adult-use initiative that over half would support, just shows how desperate the legislature is to deny the will of the people.
Thank you for allowing me to testify and I stand for any questions you may have.