Idaho (KIFI/KIDK) - Groups of Idaho activists are renewing the effort to legalize marijuana, both for medicinal and recreational purposes.
Russ Belville, with the Idaho Citizens Coalition, is in the process of drafting a citizens initiative to legalize marijuana for recreational use in the state of Idaho.
Belville led the 2020 citizens initiative for medical marijuana, called the Idaho Medical Marijuana Act (IMMA).
Due to the pandemic cutting short the time allotted for signature gathering, all citizen initiatives, including the IMMA, failed in 2020.
Belville believes that had spring events not been canceled for Covid-19 precautions, he and his allies would have made up the 15,000 signature deficit and gotten the IMMA on the ballot.
“We made more progress in 2020 toward getting on the ballot than any of the prior attempts in previous years,” Belville said.
In November, all five states that had marijuana legislation on the ballot, including Montana and South Dakota, voted in favor of some kind of legalization.
“South Dakota--not known to be a liberal state by any stretch of the imagination--passed both medical marijuana and recreational marijuana on the same ballot,” Belville said.
Feeling encouraged, two groups are now taking on the battle to legalize marijuana in Idaho in 2022.
Jackee Winters with a new group, Kind Idaho, is leading the effort to put the IMMA initiative, which would legalize medicinal cannabis, on the 2022 ballot.
Belville and the Idaho Cannabis Coalition plan to conduct a poll to find the most favorable form of recreational marijuana voters would support.
Then, he'll draft a separate initiative for recreational marijuana, to likely begin gathering signatures in April 2021. He will have 13 months to gather about 65,000 signatures from voters in 18 legislative districts.
Belville calls Idaho's citizen initiative process one of the strictest in the country. But he's not deterred by the hoops, because he feels recreational marijuana will be good for the state economically.
With most surrounding states, including Montana in 2021, having some form of marijuana legalized, Belville fears Idaho is missing out on lost sales tax revenue.
“We ship out all the marijuana tax revenue, and they bring all the marijuana smoking back to Idaho. Prohibition isn’t stopping anyone from smoking marijuana, but it stopping the state of Idaho from making any money on it,” Belville said.
Belville hypothesizes that with a minimum of Idaho's 6% sales tax rate, recreational marijuana could bring in $500,000 a month to the state.