Anticipating both a November 2012 ballot initiative and state legislation to legalize medicinal marijuana, social services agencies in Coeur d’Alene are organizing to educate the public about what they call the dangers of drug legalization.
“Our whole goal is we want our people educated so we can put pressure on the legislators not to pass it. We don’t want it. I know there’s a lot of people that do want it, but there’s a lot of people that don’t,” said Anita Kronvall, director of the Kootenai County Substance Abuse Council, which is supporting the Kootenai Alliance for Children and Families in hosting two mid-October events.
The keynote speaker will be Monte Stiles, a former assistant U.S. attorney for Idaho who retired early to make fighting medical marijuana his full-time job. He’ll speak to police, public officials, drug education groups and others on Oct. 13, then at a luncheon open to the public on Oct. 14.
Stiles spent 28 years as a state and federal prosecutor and supervised Idaho’s organized crime and drug enforcement task force. He said legalizing marijuana as medicine is ridiculous and creates a “circus” when it’s legalized at the state level but remains illegal at the federal level.
“There’s nothing medical about smoke. It’s ironic in America where we’ve been fighting cigarette addiction for 30 years,” Stiles said. “There’s no such thing as a smokable medicine. To me that’s as ridiculous as saying chew this pile of gravel because there’s iron in it.”
State Rep. Tom Trail, R-Moscow, disagrees. He points to Idaho citizens suffering from diseases including cancer and multiple sclerosis who he said would be helped by medical marijuana. It’s less addicting than opiates for pain control, he said, and doesn’t require additional medications to combat side effects. Idaho citizens with severe chronic pain are moving over the border to Oregon where they can access the drug legally, he said.
“We have to ask ourselves the question: Is this a humane way of treating our citizens who are suffering from extreme pain or not,” Trail said. Increasing numbers of Idahoans appear to agree with him, he said, pointing to a recent Boise State University study that found that 74 percent of state residents say they support allowing “terminally and seriously ill patients to use and purchase marijuana for medical purposes.”
The legislation Trail is sponsoring with state Rep. Roy Lacey, D-Pocatello, calls for the creation of state-registered “alternative treatment centers” that could grow or distribute marijuana to registered patients with prescriptions. Patients could receive 2 ounces every 28 days. The drug would be made available only to terminally or seriously ill people.
A ballot initiative seeking to gain 47,432 signatures by April 30 would allow patients to get up to 2.5 ounces every 14 days and would also let patients grow their own or have a primary caregiver do it for them. Each primary caregiver could supply up to four patients.