Original written testimony for the Senate State Affairs Committee, edited slightly upon presentation.
Good morning, Mr. Chair and esteemed Senators. My name is Russ Belville. I’m a spokesperson for the Idaho Citizens Coalition. We represent the over 200,000 Idahoans who use marijuana.
Here we are, once again, as the Senate attempts to blow up constitutional petitioning rights, just to stop us from putting a medical marijuana initiative on the ballot that three out of four Idahoans would vote for.
First it was Senator Grow and his proposal to put marijuana prohibition in the state constitution, forever shielding it from any pesky citizen initiatives.
Next it was Senator Vick and his proposal to grant a single district the ability to kill a statewide initiative through an opponent’s signature removal campaign, as was done to the Count My Vote campaign in Utah in 2018.
Now, Madame Chair, it’s your bill, a transparently obvious attempt to pre-emptively stop us from collecting signatures from the thousands of Idahoans who visit eight legal marijuana shops in Ontario, Oregon, every day. Idahoans who have been spending $8.2 million per month on marijuana products in Ontario for the past twelve months, which they then bring back to Idaho. Idahoans who gift that tiny town of 11,000 people with a quarter-million dollars in tax revenue every month. Idahoans who’d gladly sign a petition that would end their monthly trip through the Idaho State Police gauntlet on Interstate 84.
At this point, we’re just waiting for one of you senators to propose a bill that bans all initiative petitions from using the letter “M.”
Because if you don’t think this bill is about stopping marijuana, then what problem is it solving?
Under Idaho law, someone who is collecting signatures for an initiative petition must be an Idaho resident. Someone who is signing the petition must be a registered Idaho voter (and thus, a resident). That petition must be notarized within the state of Idaho by a notary public who is licensed by the state of Idaho. The signatures and verification of the signer’s Idaho voter registration are validated by one of Idaho’s county clerks against Idaho databases.
Where those Idahoans may be standing when they sign shouldn’t factor into it.
Does an Idahoan cease to be an Idahoan when they cross the state line? Does their right under the state constitution to propose and pass initiatives cease to exist when they are out-of-state? Do the constitutional rights of an Idahoan depend on his or her feet being planted on Idaho soil?
This bill declares an emergency so dire that its provisions must go into effect immediately. What could that emergency be?
There haven’t been any allegations that we’re aware of concerning fraudulent out-of-state initiative signatures. As far as we know, everyone who signed our petitions and the ones that came before us were Idaho residents. If they weren’t, their signatures were rejected by county clerks.
All this bill will succeed in accomplishing is further restricting the initiative petition rights of Idaho college students who may be studying abroad, Idaho servicemembers who may be deployed overseas, and Idaho businesspeople who may have extended work out-of-state. We urge you to reject this bill and to campaign against marijuana the same way we campaign for it—by convincing Idahoans our ideas are right, not by changing the rules in the middle of the game.