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Idaho Senate panel backs anti-pot measures

Wed., Feb. 20, 2013, 3:33 p.m.

BOISE – Two resolutions calling for Idaho to never legalize marijuana for any purpose, and for the U.S. Justice Department to crack down in states that do, cleared an Idaho Senate committee on Wednesday after more than two hours of emotional testimony on both sides.

Marianne King, director of Drug Free Idaho, told the Senate State Affairs Committee, “Imagine a workplace where employees show up high on marijuana and there’s nothing we can do about it. That’s the concern we hear.”

Several people testified that marijuana leads to other drug use, mental illness and more; and John Evans, mayor of Garden City and president of the Association of Idaho Cities, told the senators, “Legalization of marijuana in any form is a threat to our communities, on our roads, in the workplace and in the classroom.”

The cities association passed an anti-marijuana resolution several weeks ago, prompting Sen. Chuck Winder, R-Boise, to propose the legislation.

Speaking against the measures, Coty Ternes of Compassionate Idaho told the committee that drug dealers don’t ask kids for I.D. when they sell them marijuana. “Get this out of the black markets,” he said, “get the money out of the hands of criminals and into the hands of legitimate businesses. … Let’s use this money that is going toward fighting it to help out the struggling schools.”

Several patients with serious medical conditions told the senators they don’t want to take heavy pain killers with serious side effects when marijuana can alleviate their symptoms. Several teenagers appealed to lawmakers to keep Idaho drug-free.

Winder noted that neither of the resolutions he sponsored actually changes Idaho’s laws. Instead, SCR 112 says it’s the policy of the Legislature that marijuana should never be legalized for any purpose; and SJM 101 is a non-binding memorial to Congress and the U.S. Department of Justice calling for federal drug laws to be enforced in all states – including Idaho’s neighbor, Washington, where voters have legalized recreational use of the drug for adults.

“It’s impacting our state,” Winder said, noting that several police officers told the committee marijuana seizures on Idaho’s roads have gone up since neighboring states decriminalized medical marijuana.

“The interstate trafficking of drugs is under federal jurisdiction, therefore they’re the ones that should be responsible primarily for that,” Winder declared.

But Idaho lawmakers are accustomed to railing against federal authority over states, not calling for federal crackdowns. On Thursday morning, the Idaho Senate has blocked out several hours for debate over a state health insurance exchange bill to allow senators plenty of time to vent about how health care reform impacts state sovereignty.

The committee approved both anti-marijuana measures on voice votes, but only a few senators said “aye” when asked to vote on the second measure, calling for the federal crackdown.

“They weren’t enthusiastic about it,” committee Chairman Curt McKenzie, R-Nampa, who didn’t vote, said afterward. “I think there will be members that will vote ‘no’ on the floor,” when the full Senate takes up the resolutions, due to concerns about state sovereignty. “I think that’s an issue,” McKenzie said.

Senate Minority Leader Michelle Stennett, D-Ketchum, didn’t oppose the resolutions in the committee, but said she’ll likely vote against them in the full Senate. She spoke emotionally about having family members suffer from the effects of cancer treatment, including terrible nausea caused by chemotherapy.

After the hearing, Stennett said her relatives didn’t use marijuana, but it might have helped them. She called the measure advocating a federal crackdown in other states “overreaching,” saying, “I don’t think we have any say in what happens across our borders.”

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