It’s a bold proclamation, given that the state has been in total Republican control since 1995 and voted nearly 60 percent for Donald Trump. But as a kid who grew up under the Democratic administrations of Cecil Andrus and John Evans, I’d love to see Paulette Jordan become the next Democratic governor of Idaho.
Paulette Jordan is a state senator who lit up (pun intended) the final state Democratic gubernatorial debate with her calm, measured, and firm support for not just CBD or medical marijuana, but recreational marijuana legalization. She made her mark supporting failed efforts in the Idaho Legislature to approve CBD legislation that passed both chambers, only to suffer the nation’s only veto of such a law from incumbent Republican Butch Otter.
The first question of the debate (at 8:36) was about the marijuana issue and Jordan’s bold support for reform. Idaho is one of the four remaining “total prohibition” states, where not even non-psychoactive CBD is allowed and for which any possession of any kind of marijuana by anybody for any purpose will lead straight to a jail cell. After a Jordan explained the benefits of medical marijuana, both for patients using it and states reaping tax benefits from it, the moderator pressed her on recreational marijuana, specifically.
“I see nothing wrong with recreational marijuana,” said Jordan. “I think it is up to the people to decide for themselves what they are comfortable with.”
The idea that the people should decide was a refrain Jordan returned to again and again. Idaho is one of the 24 states with citizen initiative petitions and one of just two of those (Nebraska) that has never placed a marijuana reform measure on the ballot.
The moderators wanted to pin Jordan down on the recreational issue, claiming (at 11:18) that recreational marijuana legalization in Colorado has, since 2012, led to the following “unintended consequences,” which I’ll debunk here, since Jordan did not have the time in her response to do so.
- “a 145% increase in the number of fatal accidents…” (In 2012, there were 434 fatal crashes. In 2017, there were 600. That’s an increase of 38%. That’s not ideal, but it’s not 145%, and those aren’t all pot’s fault, either. Colorado Dept. of Transportation notes that “there are several possible reasons for the uptick, such as more people on Colorado’s roadways,” and that “the rise in fatalities is part of a national trend.”)
- “underaged use on the rise, more and more teenagers using it…” (The most recent National Survey on Drug Use & Health showed “the lowest rate of monthly marijuana use in the state since 2007 and 2008” and that the state had dropped from first to seventh nationally in teen monthly marijuana use rates.)
- “pediatric exposure…” (Colorado public health officials noted that yes, in the beginning of legalization, accidental exposure to marijuana among kids was a big problem, but recently “poison center calls about marijuana exposure have been on the decline since 2015 and marijuana-related emergency room visits dropped between 2014 and 2015.”)
- “agricultural implications…” (Unsure what she’s getting at, unless she means the environmental degradations from illegal marijuana grow sites that are all throughout Idaho.)
- “costs associated with legalizing marijuana.” (Every state with legalized marijuana has a state program that pays for itself and generates far more tax revenue than it costs.)
Jordan didn’t take the bait, instead returning to the will-of-the-people point.
“Listen, I’m always about listening to the people first,” Jordan replied. “So, when the people want this, I’m all for it.”
AJ Balukoff, who was the Democrat’s losing gubernatorial candidate in 2014, only offered support for decriminalization of marijuana.
“I am not in favor of putting people in jail for using marijuana,” Balukoff explained without giving any detail as to what marijuana law he’d be for.
When pressed on whether he’d support medical or recreational marijuana, Balukoff retreated to a familiar refrain from Hillary Clinton’s repertoire on the marijuana issue.
“With marijuana, I believe more research needs to be done to identify the unintended consequences that may be there,” Balukoff demurred, as if there hasn’t been over 7,000 years of documented human use, over twenty years of medical marijuana use in now thirty states, and over 34,000 published research papers on the federal government’s PubMed database already.
I covered a bit of the Idaho Republican gubernatorial candidates’ stands on weed in the news previously. Congressman Raul Labrador believes CBD oil “should be legal, I think it should be available to families in Idaho.” Businessman Tommy Ahlquist said, “You can be 100 percent against the legalization of marijuana like I am, but let’s get CBD oil for the families in this state that need it.”
Of all the candidates in the two major parties, only current Republican Lt. Gov. Brad Little is campaigning as an old-school drug warrior who believes supporting medical marijuana inevitably leads to recreational marijuana. He only supports the governor’s current limited CBD oil program that is helping only a handful of Idaho children, saying, “we’re controlling the quality to make sure it doesn’t morph into recreational marijuana.”
You can follow Paulette Jordan on Twitter @PauletteEJordan and contribute to her campaign at JordanForGovernor.com. The Idaho primary is on May 15.