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Friday, October 18, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Eye On Boise

Post-election, pot is one toke over the stateline for most of Idaho…

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By Scott Maben

Idaho is an island of abstinence on the legal weed frontier.

The state shares 77 percent of its border with pot-friendly states, made even friendlier Tuesday with victories for looser marijuana laws in Nevada and Montana. If you add in the 45-mile boundary with British Columbia, where medical pot is legal, 80 percent of Idaho now borders bud country.

Recreational marijuana already is legal in Washington and Oregon, and in Nevada, where medical pot has been legal, voters just approved recreational sales as well. Those three states together account for 669 miles of the Gem State’s 1,605-mile perimeter.

Also Tuesday, Montana voters loosened limits on that state’s medical marijuana law. Idaho shares a 567-mile mountainous border with the Treasure State.

Medical marijuana is permitted in British Columbia, and Canada is moving toward decriminalizing marijuana nationally in 2017.

But in Idaho and the bordering states of Utah and Wyoming, firm bans on pot remain. The only exception is the supervised use of cannabidiol oil to treat intractable epilepsy or seizure disorders. Utah permitted that limited use in 2014, and Wyoming followed suit in 2015.

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter vetoed a similar measure last year, but he signed an executive order giving up to 25 children with persistent seizures very limited use of the non-psychoactive drug.

In Idaho, possession of less than 3 ounces of marijuana is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in prison or a $1,000 fine. More than that, up to a pound, and it’s a felony with the maximum penalty of 5 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

There is little chance Idaho’s socially conservative Legislature will warm up to any form of legal marijuana. In 2013, the Legislature overwhelmingly passed a resolution against ever legalizing any form of marijuana use for any purpose.

“It is well known that marijuana use adversely affects the health and developing brains of children and adolescents and legalization increases access to this harmful drug,” Elisha Figueroa, administrator of the Idaho Office of Drug Policy, said earlier this year.

Efforts to put a medical marijuana initiative on the ballot in Idaho failed this year and two years ago.

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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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