A spokesperson for Compassionate Idaho announced March 8 that the group "jumped the gun" and would instead launch its statewide petition drive on Friday, March 15 to put a medical marijuana initiative before Idaho voters.
"This petition will circulate until April 30, 2014 to appear on the 2014 ballot," wrote Lindsey Rinehart, executive director of Compassionate Idaho. "Teams are in place and developing rapidly, but we still need more volunteers."
ORIGINAL POST: March 6, 2013
With the goal of garnering more than 50,000 signatures, Compassionate Idaho and advocates for medical marijuana hope to put their cause on Gem State ballots in 2014.
“Patients need medicine now," Lindsey Rinehart, executive director of Compassionate Idaho, told Boise Weekly. "We need safe access now."
Rinehart told BW that beginning Friday, March 8, her organization will launch the petition drive—calling for the legalization of medical marijuana in the Gem State—looking to wrap up the effort on April 30, 2014.
“We didn’t succeed in 2012," she said. "And we aren’t going to wait another two years. We aren’t going to wait until 2016.”
When asked about Compassionate Idaho's motivations toward the recreational use of pot, Rinehart said “It’s not on our agenda.”
“There are patients going to jail for treating their illness” said Rinehart. “A lot of people are leaving our state to live in neighboring states because they’re scared.”
Rinehart pointed to a fellow advocate diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
“She was arrested four times for treating her illness [with marijuana]," said Rinehart. "And she was eventually going to face prison time.”
Now accepting volunteers, Rinehart expressed hopes of gathering signatures and educating Idahoans about medical marijuana.
Rinehart told BW that the petition drive would include volunteers gathering signatures near shopping centers and college campuses, in addition to an online effort at compassionateidaho.org.
North Idaho lawmen are keeping a close watch on traffic between the Gem State and Washington, since Washington's Dec. 6 legalization of recreational use of up to an ounce of marijuana for adults older than 21.
This week's Idaho County Free Press reports that Idaho County sheriff's deputies and county prosecutors haven't seen any immediate effects but they're still cautioning Idahoans who may be heading to Washington for some pot.
"It may be legal in Washington but it's not legal in the state of Idaho," Grangeville Police Chief Morgan Drew told the Press. "It's definitely a crime, and as far as I'm concerned, they will be treated the same as anyone else."
Marijuana is a so-called schedule 1 drug, and possession of less than three ounces is a misdemeanor, which could result in maximum penalties of six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. Possession of more than three ounces is a felony punishable by up to five years behind bars and a $15,000 fine.
"If, for example, a Clarkston [Wash.] resident drives into Idaho and forgets they have marijuana in their pocket and they are caught, it's still against the law," Idaho County Prosecutor Kirk MacGregor told the Press. "It's his responsibility to remove it from his person before he comes to Idaho."
Twenty-three states currently support some level of marijuana possession or use, including the recent legalizations in Washington and Colorado.
In the shadow of last week's legalization of recreational marijuana use in Washington state, President Barack Obama indicates that busting pot smokers is not a "top priority" for his administration.
"We've got bigger fish to fry," Obama told ABC's Barbara Walters. "It would not make sense for us to see a top priority as going after recreational users in states that have determined that it's legal."
On Election Night, Washington joined Colorado to become the nation's first states to legalize recreational marijuana use for adults in their states. Marijuana use and possession remains illegal under federal law and there were some concerns that the federal government would prosecute drug users in those states. The Obama administration already chooses not to prosecute individual users in the 18 states that have legalized medical marijuana but has gone after growers and suppliers of the drug.
Marijuana remains classified under the Controlled Substances Act as a Schedule I narcotic, whose cultivation, distribution, possession and use are criminal acts. Marijuana, or cannabis, is in the same drug category as heroin, LSD and Ecstasy, all deemed to have high potential for abuse.
NBC News reports that most Americans are also softening their opinion on the drug and agree with the administration's stance. A new Gallup poll shows that 64 percent of Americans are against the federal government intervening in states where marijuana is legal.
Some Washington state pot smokers rejoiced Thursday as recreational marijuana became legal in a historic first for the United States. Despite a federal ban on marijuana use remaining in place—and a provision of the new state law that forbids users from lighting up outside the privacy of their homes—more than 100 devoted smokers gathered under the Space Needle to celebrate.
Amid blaring reggae music, they lit up joints at the stroke of midnight in honor of the new marijuana law, which makes it legal for people aged 21 and older to possess an ounce or less of pot.
"I feel like a kid in a candy store! It's all becoming real now," Darby Hageman told the Associated Press.
Pot parties were reported across Washington as the new law came into force following a Nov. 6 referendum in which Washington joined Colorado to vote for the decriminalization and regulation of recreational pot use.
The Seattle Police Department suggested on its website that people "Responsibly get baked, order some pizzas and enjoy a Lord of the Rings marathon in the privacy of your own home."
Seattle Police said they would—for the moment only—issue verbal warnings, although in theory, they could impose $50 fines for smoking marijuana on a street or public square.
The department also emailed its 1,300 officers, telling them not to write any citations for smoking pot in public until further notice:
"We had a city ordinance prior to this that said marijuana enforcement was our lowest enforcement priority."
Idaho towns and cities that border Washington state will be keeping a close eye on Thursday being the first day for legalization of small amounts of marijuana in Washington.
"As of Thursday, it will be legal to possess marijuana, but there won't be any method in place to legally purchase it," Pullman Police Chief Gary Jenkins told his city's lawmakers on Tuesday.
This morning's Lewiston Tribune reports that Pullman City Councilor Fritz Hughes had just two words for Jenkins:
"Good luck," said Hughes, according to the Tribune.
Jenkins told lawmakers that his department would continue to "focus on the illegal sale and distribution of marijuana," according to the Tribune.
Pullman City Attorney Laura McAloon also cautioned that city employees could still be fired for violating drug policies that prohibit the use of marijuana.
Law enforcement in Kitsap County in western Washington are the latest to drop prosecutions against defendants charged solely with marijuana possession.
The Associated Press reports that between 20 and 100 cases will be dropped, but those individuals charged with crimes beyond marijuana possession will still face prosectuion.
Law enforcement in Washington's Clark, King and Pierce counties had previously announced that they would dump marijuana possession prosecutions in the wake of Washington voters' recent decision to legalize the recreational use of small amounts of marijuana.
Kitsap County Prosecutor Russ Hauge told the AP that he didn't believe juries would convict pot possession defendants after the approval of Initiative 502.
The legalization goes into effect on Thursday, Dec. 6.
Meanwhile, some Idaho law enforcement officials have expressed public concern about Washingtonians crossing into the Gem State with their pot.
With less than three weeks before the recreational use of marijuana becomes legal in Washington, Seattle Police are turning to the social network to help communicate "dos" and "don'ts."
Here are a few questions and answers from the blog:
Question: What happens if police pull you over after Dec. 6 (the day the law takes effect) and you're sober but police smell that bag of Super Skunk in your trunk?
Answer: The smell of pot alone will not be reason to search.
Question: Dec. 6th seems like a really long ways away. What happens if I get caught with marijuana before then?
Answer: Hold your breath.
Question: Seattle Police seized a bunch of my marijuana before [the law] passed. Can I have it back?
Question: I’m under 21. What happens if I get caught smoking pot?
Answer: It’s a violation of state law. It may be referred to prosecutors, just like if you were a minor in possession of alcohol.
Question: Will police officers be allowed to smoke marijuana?
Answer: As of right now, no.
“Marijuana legalization creates some challenges for the Seattle Police Department,” Spangenthal-Lee wrote. “But SPD is already working to respond to these issues head on.”
With more than a few border communities in Idaho keeping a close eye on Washington state's upcoming vote on the legalization of marijuana, Gem State law enforcement insist that Idaho won't bend on its pot regulations.
This morning's Lewiston Tribune reports that 2nd District Judge John Stegner, who rules over cases in the community of Moscow, said he didn't "forsee any changes in the future."
"It's really rank speculation at this point," Stegner told the Tribune.
Additionally, Moscow Police Chief David Duke said his officers average two to three contacts a day involving marijuana possession or use, but most result in a citation and not an arrest.
And at least one lawman is hoping for a "no" vote in the Washington referendum.
"We're just keeping our fingers crossed that it doesn't pass," Nez Perce County Sheriff Dale Buttrey told the Tribune. "I think a lot more studying needs to be done.'
Sixteen individuals have been indicted and arraigned for their part in operating the 45th Parallel, the Ontario, Ore.-based medical marijuana shop frequented by dozens of residents living on both sides of the Oregon-Idaho border.
Boise Weekly first visited the 45th Parallel in January 2011, discovering a robust business.
"We know of at least 500 Idaho clients that have bought property in Oregon just in the last 60 days," the owner told BW. "They don't want to break the law, so this is going to be their new home. Idaho is losing residents, there's no doubt about it."
But a yearlong investigation by the Malheur County Prosecutor's Office resulted in the arrests earlier this month and the indictments and arraignments handed down Sept. 25. Charges were leveled against 13 Oregon residents, three individuals from Nampa and one suspect from Boise. Each has been charged with racketeering and several received additional charges of delivery, possession and/or manufacture of marijuana.
A pre-trial date is expected to be scheduled for mid-December.
Federal agents raided Ontario, Ore., marijuana dispensary The 45th Parallel Tuesday morning.
Though they found no marijuana on site, the agents found and removed approximately 160 marijuana plants distributed among three The 45th Parallel-owned sites, as well as patient files, tax records and business receipts.
"They're on a fishing expedition. They couldn't set us up because of our rules, so now they're fishing through our paperwork to see if we're doing something illegal," said the nonprofit's director, Bill, who preferred that his full name not be used.
No charges have been filed against the dispensary or its employees, and Bill said he is still unsure exactly which agency raided his business.
Despite the raid, The 45th Parallel will remain open for business.
Dispensaries like The 45th Parallel have limited legality in Oregon, and the state will vote on a measure that will fully decriminalize marijuana in Oregon on Nov. 6., but marijuana remains a scheduled substance on the federal level.