Constitutional ban on legal cannabis advances in Idaho

As legal marijuana becomes a reality in every corner of the U.S., Idaho is putting up a fight.

State lawmakers on Friday moved forward with a proposed constitutional amendment that would bar the legalization of marijuana in Idaho in an attempt to keep the growing nationwide acceptance of the drug from seeping across its borders.

Idaho is one of only three states without some sort of policy allowing residents to possess products with even low amounts of THC, the psychoactive chemical in marijuana. Residents can cross the state border in nearly every direction and find themselves in a place where marijuana can be bought for recreational or medicinal purposes. Support for medicinal marijuana use is growing among some residents — with legalization activists trying to get an initiative on the state ballot in 2022.

It’s made some lawmakers in the deep-red state nervous, particularly after voters in the neighboring state of Oregon decriminalized the personal possession of drugs like heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine last November.

The joint resolution to ban all psychoactive drugs not already legal in Idaho won approval along a 6-2 party-line vote in the Senate State Affairs Committee. The list of substances would change for drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

But the primary target over the two days of testimony on Monday and Friday was marijuana as Idaho finds itself surrounded by states that have legalized cannabis.

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Congress to Vote This Week on Bill to Legalize Cannabis, End Federal Prohibition

After months of debate and partisan stalling, the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act of 2019 is set for a vote before a full chamber of Congress by the end of this week.

The bipartisan bill sponsored by Vice President-elect Kamala Harris has been touted as the most comprehensive federal cannabis reform legislation ever introduced and comes after over half a century of a failed “war on drugs” that fueled mass incarceration and other collateral damage for poor communities.

Late last week, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer advised the Congress that the MORE Act would be taken up by the House at some point between Wednesday evening and Friday.

In a September statement, Hoyer said that “The MORE Act remains a critical component of House Democrats’ plan for addressing systemic racism and advancing criminal justice reform.”

The bill has also gained the support of both liberals and libertarian-leaning conservatives who see the responsible use of cannabis as a personal right, as well as other Republicans who believe that it should be up to the states to regulate the dispensation of the plant without the interference or control of federal authorities.

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