In a move that could limit the options of advocates promoting cannabis legalization initiatives, the Idaho Senate approved a bill on Wednesday that would ban advertising for marijuana in the state. The Senate passed the measure, SB 1218, with a vote of 21 to 14, sending the legislation to the state House of Representatives for consideration.
During debate on the bill, Sen. Scott Grow, the sponsor of the measure, said that billboards in western Idaho advertise cannabis businesses just over the border in Oregon, where recreational marijuana is legal for adults.
“People are being encouraged to violate the law,” Grow said. “They’re being encouraged to go over and get something they know is illegal in Idaho.”
Earlier on Wednesday, the bill had been placed on a fast track for approval, receiving a committee hearing with little notice for the public to participate. Nonetheless, four citizens appeared at the meeting to oppose the measure, while no one showed up to speak in favor of the bill. Their efforts were in vain, however, with the panel’s Republican majority approving the bill with a vote of 7 to 2 along party lines.
“They introduced this bill late in the evening, without even posting it online for the citizens of Idaho to have a chance to read and respond. Then passed it the next morning, despite unanimous opposition in the audience,” Frank wrote in an email. “Their shady tactics and immoral attacks on the rights of Idaho citizens simply continues to expose them for what they really are– terrified of the inevitability of the legalization of marijuana in Idaho.”
“The Idaho prohibitionists are fighting tooth and nail this session to pass anything they can that will make it almost impossible to reform Idaho’s harmful marijuana laws; from choking the life out of our initiative process to a proposed amendment to the constitution that would have forever banned the legalization of any drug that is currently illegal in Idaho,” she added.
SB 1218 Could Limit Legalization Efforts
Frank and other activists are worried that the rushed legislation will do more than prevent the advertising of marijuana businesses and could be used to quash efforts to promote cannabis reform in Idaho.
“The latest attack on Idaho citizens is an affront to the 1st Amendment protections of freedom of speech, of the press, and of the ability of all Idahoans to petition the government for a redress of our grievances,” Frank said. “The words of SB 1218 are so vague and poorly crafted that it would essentially punish anyone in Idaho for promoting even the legalization of marijuana through a t-shirt, a flyer, an initiative such as the Idaho Medical Marijuana Act, or even through an event like Boise Hempfest.”
After the committee meeting, Grow said that he did not know how SB 1218 would affect attempts to gather signatures for cannabis legalization initiatives.
“That would take a legal opinion,” Grow said.
Republican Sen. Regina Bayer expressed reservations about the measure, saying that she receives health supplement magazines with advertisements for CBD oil that contains THC, which is illegal in Idaho. She wondered if the bill would subject people who have such materials to a misdemeanor criminal charge.
“It’s in my mailbox. It’s on my front door. It’s on my kitchen counter. It’s advertising,” she said. “I really wonder how this bill addresses that and if there are any concerns to be had there.”
Democratic Sen. Grant Burgoyne opposed the bill, noting that the state’s residents have already been subject to advertising for activities illegal in Idaho without action from the legislature.
“There’s been a casino in Jackpot, Nevada that has been wanting me to ride a fun bus to Nevada to do something in Nevada that I can’t do here in Idaho except on an Indian reservation because it is illegal to do it in Idaho,” Burgoyne said. “That’s gambling.”
With Wednesday’s approval of SB 1218 in the Idaho Senate, the measure heads to the state House of Representatives for consideration.