Idaho medical cannabis initiative moves forward despite stiff headwind

Audio: an interview with Russ Belville, spokesperson for the Idaho Citizens Coalition for Cannabis

A cannabis flower - photo: Brian Bahouth/the Ally

There are ten cannabis dispensaries in Ontario, Oregon, a town of roughly 11,000. That’s one dispensary for every 1,100 residents. In the Reno, Sparks, Carson City region, there are currently 16 cannabis dispensaries serving a population of around 400,000. That’s a dispensary for every 25,000 people.

Based on those numbers alone, you might conclude that the citizens of Ontario consume an inordinate amount of cannabis, but one look at a map, and it’s clear that people from directly across the border in Nampa and Boise, Idaho, a combined population of roughly 320,000, are shopping in Ontario, big time. According to the Idaho Citizens Coalition for Cannabis, Idahoans spend roughly $10 million a month in Oregon on cannabis.

Despite Idahoans’ apparent zeal for cannabis, the state’s elected Republican leaders could not be more hostile to the idea of legalizing cannabis in Idaho.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, Idaho remains one of three states in the nation where there is no legal public access to cannabis, a total ban.

In recent days, Idaho lawmakers passed, and Governor Brad Little vetoed a bill that would have prohibited drug reform questions from being on statewide ballot initiatives.

Governor Little did however sign a bill into law that makes getting a question on the ballot much more difficult. Though not specifically focused on drug legalization, some say the new law is an attempt to prevent the legalization of cannabis, medical or adult use, through ballot initiative.

Kind Idaho is sponsor of the Idaho Medical Marijuana Act of 2022. The group, along with the Idaho Citizens Coalition for Cannabis have been authorized to gather signatures since February 8 of this year, so the initiative does not have to meet the new, more rigorous, requirements for ballot access. Any future initiative would.

To learn more about the effort to legalize medical cannabis in one of the last outposts of prohibition in the nation, we spoke with Russ Belville, spokesperson for the Idaho Citizens Coalition for Cannabis.

Music credits as reported to the Public Radio Exchange, in order of appearance

Song: Diversion
Artist: Hacienda
Album: Narrowed Eyes
Label: Infracom!
Date: 1998
Duration: 1:15

Song: Sci-Fi Saloon
Artist: Hacienda
Album: Narrowed Eyes
Label: Infracom!
Date: 1998
Duration: 1:46

Song: Flannel Sunset
Artist: Hacienda
Album: Narrowed Eyes
Label: Infracom!
Date: 1998
Duration: 1:39

Song:Wandering Around, Lost
Artist: Genuine
Album: Ambient Dreams
Label: Water Music Records
Date: 2002
Duration: 1:31

Song:Lazy Mason Fills My Bong
Artist: Hacienda
Album: Narrowed Eyes
Label: Infracom!
Date: 1998
Duration: 1:30

Song: Fantastic Day Out
Artist: Hacienda
Album: Narrowed Eyes
Label: Infracom!
Date: 1998
Duration: :52

Song: Out to Lounge
Artist: Hacienda
Album: Narrowed Eyes
Label: Infracom!
Date: 1998
Duration: 1:17

Song: At Moes Tavern
Artist: Hacienda
Album: Narrowed Eyes
Label: Infracom!
Date: 1998
Duration: 1:17