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Eye On Boise

Bipartisan bill would offer option for low-level, first-time marijuana possession charges

Bipartisan legislation introduced in the House Judiciary Committee this week would allow a first-time offender charged with possession of less than half an ounce of marijuana to get the charge reduced from a misdemeanor to an infraction, if the offender voluntarily completes four hours of court-approved drug education, and also either pays a fine of $250 or completes eight hours of community service.

“It’s designed for the person who makes a one-time mistake,” said Rep. John Gannon, D-Boise, who is co-sponsoring the bill with Rep. Eric Redman, R-Athol. The offender still would initially be charged with a misdemeanor and subject to arrest.

Under current Idaho law, possession of 3 ounces or less of marijuana is a misdemeanor punishable by fines of up to $1,000 and up to a year in jail; possession of more than three ounces is a felony. Thirty states, including most of Idaho’s neighbors, have legalized marijuana for either medical or recreational use.

Though the House Judiciary Committee agreed to introduce the bill, Rep. Luke Malek, R-Coeur d’Alene, said he’ll oppose it. “I think there’ll be a couple of ‘no’ votes,” Gannon said. “We’ll see how it’ll come out.” He said a young person who’s convicted of a misdemeanor for a first-time possession charge could face problems later getting student loans, financial aid or employment.

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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