2016 is going to be a big year for cannabis. As a result, we are ranking the fifty states from worst to best on how they treat cannabis and those who consume it. Each of our State of Cannabis posts will analyze one state and our final post will crown the best state for cannabis.
As is always the case, but particularly so with this series, we welcome your comments. This is our third in the series. Oklahoma was last week, ranking as the second worst state for cannabis. This week’s state, Idaho, is better than Oklahoma, but not by much.
Idaho’s Criminal Laws. Like many other states, the penalties in Idaho for possessing marijuana depend largely on the quantity of cannabis found. A person caught with less than three ounces faces a misdemeanor charge punishable by up to a year in prison and up to a $1,000 fine. However, possession of more than three ounces is a felony, punishable by up to five years in prison and a maximum $10,000 fine. Possession of paraphernalia can lead to additional misdemeanor charges.
Trafficking in marijuana can lead to much harsher penalties. A person who “knowingly manufactures, delivers, or brings into this state, or who is knowingly in actual or constructive possession of, one (1) pound of marijuana or more, or twenty-five (25) marijuana plants or more” is guilty of trafficking in marijuana. ICA 37-2732B. The penalties depend on the quantity of marijuana, but many carry mandatory minimums. For example, a person caught trafficking marijuana for a second time gets a mandatory minimum of double the time for the original offense. Finally, in Idaho, you can get in trouble simply for being high. ICA 37-2732C. Public intoxication can lead to a six-month jail sentence and/or a $1,000 fine.
These laws have especially impacted African-American communities. According to the ACLU, African-Americans in Idaho are more than two and half times more likely to be arrested for possession than their white neighbors.
Legalization. Idaho’s conservative legislature recently passed Senate Bill 1146, allowing no-THC, high-CBD cannabis oil. This has allowed just four children to access CBD oil to treat their severe epilepsy.
There is little room for optimism when it comes to Idaho legalizing recreational marijuana. Idaho has an initiative process, which is a positive in terms of likely legalization, but no legalization dialogue has yet to secure sufficient signatures to qualify for the ballot. A recent state poll found that 33% of respondents favored legalization, with 64% opposed. With public sentiment so against legalization, we should not expect that for Idaho any time soon.
Recently, an outspoken advocate for broader medical marijuana access protested on the steps of the state Capitol in Boise. The protester, a mother from Boise, was arrested after giving a speech that culminated with her lighting a joint. According to a local report, She had the following comments regarding Idaho’s laws:
For all of our future generations and for each and every one of you and your families, I stand here today in front of my Capitol building obligated by conscience to demand the reform of Idaho’s outdated and harmful marijuana laws, and willfully and civilly disobey.
She hopes her civil disobedience will fuel dialogue on legalizing marijuana in Idaho.
Bottom Line. Idaho’s strict laws and conservative population make it a difficult battleground for marijuana advocates. There appears to be a small, but vocal contingency favoring of legalization, but until they can gain more popular support, Idaho will remain one of the worst states for marijuana laws; the third worst to be exact.