The Last State to Legalize Marijuana Will Be…
I spoke last Saturday at the inaugural Boise Hempfest. It was good to be back in my home town and see my folks, but it is always nerve-wracking to return to Idaho (see: two Idaho trips ago when cops paid me a surprise visit at my motel room.)
During one of my speeches, I explained to my fellow Idahoans how I travel the country almost every weekend. I go to legal states, medical states, and prohibition states. One of the most common things I hear when I’m in one of the prohibition states is, “this state is going to be the last one to ever legalize marijuana.”
And I always respond, “Wanna bet? I’m from Idaho.”
Idaho is a remarkable place. One of the favorite sayings there is “Idaho is what America was.” They mean that as if it is a good thing, and not a criticism of Idaho’s retrograde, conservative politics. Idahoans are proud that their state and capital city lack the crime, homelessness, and bohemian culture of nearby Portland, Oregon, or Seattle, Washington. They appreciate the lack of panhandlers, dirty streets, and strip clubs with actual nudity (seriously – you’ll see more flesh on a California beach than you’ll see in an Idaho strip club.)
Idaho is also surrounded by states that have passed some form of marijuana law reform. It remains the only state west of the Rockies without some sort of reform. Just three years ago, in a 29-5 vote, the Idaho state senate passed a symbolic resolution to never, ever legalize marijuana for any purpose whatsoever.
Think of that. A state where marijuana is already highly illegal took the time and taxpayer money to debate and vote on keeping marijuana illegal. No other state has done anything like it.
There are four states that have legalized marijuana for adults. Two of them – Oregon and Washington – border Idaho. Another border state, Nevada, will be legalizing marijuana this fall. By next year, residents of Couer d’Alene, Lewiston, Moscow, Boise, and Twin Falls will all be within a one-hour drive of a legal pot shop.
There are twenty-five states that have legalized medical use of cannabis. Four of them – Oregon, Washington, Nevada, and Montana – border Idaho. Canada to the north of Idaho has medical marijuana and is expected to legalize marijuana by 2017. Montana is voting to expand their medical marijuana program.
There are sixteen other states that have legalized CBD – the medical use of cannabidiol from cannabis. Two of them – Utah and Wyoming – border Idaho. Since 2014, when Utah first passed a CBD law and Iowa, Wisconsin, and the whole South followed, Idaho has remained the only state that has passed a CBD law that was vetoed by the governor.
That leaves just eight states – Idaho, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Arkansas, Indiana, and West Virginia – that have no legal recognition of any kind of personal use of cannabis. But if we expand our look at state cannabis laws, Idaho gets lonelier.
There are twelve more states that haven’t yet legalized that treat personal marijuana possession as a civil infraction – so-called decriminalization states where you get no criminal record or jail time for weed. Nebraska is one of those states. So Idaho remains one of seven that maintain criminal penalties in all cases of all types of marijuana possession.
Then there are twenty-eight states where some form of industrial hemp law is in effect. North Dakota, Indiana, and West Virginia are on that list. That takes us down to Idaho being just one of four states that recognizes no legal use of any form of the cannabis plant.
This year, we have five states voting on legalization and four more voting on medical marijuana. While Idaho’s neighboring Nevada goes legal and neighboring Montana approves medical marijuana dispensaries, there will also be votes for medical marijuana in North Dakota and Arkansas. So if those pass, come January of 2017 it could just be Idaho, South Dakota, and Kansas fighting it out to be the last state with absolute cannabis prohibition in every form.
So, which will be the last state to legalize any form of marijuana? Idaho and South Dakota have a leg up on Kansas, since they have the power of citizen initiatives and Kansas does not. Idaho is currently running a medical marijuana campaign under the New Approach Idaho for 2018. As I told the attendees at Boise Hempfest, “It’s not a matter of when they are going to change the laws; it’s a matter of when you are going to change the laws.”