Idaho Reps. Terry Gestrin and Dorothy Moon and Sen. Steven Thayn told fellow Republicans at a March 23 Lincoln Day luncheon in Challis why they’d supported a bill to increase signature requirements for citizens to get initiatives on statewide election ballots and updated the status of some of the bills they sponsored during the ongoing 2019 session of the Idaho Legislature.

“I believe we’re better off if we spend more time listening than talking,” Gestrin said during his short speech.

Republican legislators’ support of the bill to increase signature requirements to put initiatives before voters was not a backlash against voters’ 2018 passage of an initiative to expand Medicaid coverage in Idaho, Gestrin said. Republicans support the rights of the minority, including voters in rural Idaho, and didn’t want voters in the metropolitan counties such as Ada imposing their will on the rest of the state on voter initiatives, Gestrin said.

“We are a republic, not a democracy,” said Gestrin. “That means we protect the rights of the minority from the majority.”

Typically, the side that has the most money to spend advertising in support of its position on any particular voter initiative is the side that wins the election, Gestrin said. “I believe in citizens’ right to petition their government.”

A majority of Idaho voters did support Medicaid expansion without any sideboards or restrictions, Thayn said, but many Republicans believe they are needed. Adding a work requirement for people getting Medicaid coverage might help people become self-sufficient and get out of poverty, Thayn believes. The House version of the bill passed with a mandatory work requirement while the Senate version had a voluntary one.

Thayn said he is looking for ways to end intergenerational poverty and reduce people’s dependence on government programs.

Rep. Moon’s co-sponsored bill to allow Idahoans to grow hemp passed the House but the Senate amended it. She announced this week she is no longer a co-sponsor because she doesn’t support the amendments.

Moon told fellow Republicans last month she was a co-sponsor because she thinks it should be legal for Idahoans to grow and transport hemp.

Current Idaho law draws no distinction between hemp and marijuana. As a result, Idaho officials have jailed truck drivers hauling hemp through the state and charged them with marijuana trafficking, a felony that carries a mandatory minimum five-year prison term. That’s wrong, Moon said. Prosecutors and law enforcement officers have been lobbying against legalization of hemp because they say it’s the same thing as marijuana and it’s not, she said. Hemp has low amounts of the psychoactive ingredient of marijuana, tetrahydrocannbinol and does not make people high. Neither does therapeutic cannibidiol which Moon tried to legalize last year and she says helps people suffering from seizures, pain and other medical conditions.

Hemp could help create new businesses in Custer County and help the economy, Moon told Lincoln Day attendees.

The Senate changes took away the part of the bill removing hemp from Idaho’s schedule 1 list of controlled substances, Moon said earlier this week. Amendments proposed by local law enforcement and prosecutors changed the legislation from an agricultural bill to a law enforcement bill, Moon said.

“It’s still illegal,” Moon told the Idaho Press. “Everybody who currently is using CBD oil with even a touch of THC, they’re still a felon. The bill no longer conforms with the 2018 Farm Bill. It’s very difficult, in my mind, to proceed when hemp is still illegal — that was a huge part of the Farm Bill. Since HB 122 is no longer the bill I helped to write and sponsor, co-sponsor, I’m withdrawing my name as a sponsor of the bill. ... Better luck next year.”

Moon said the most “disheartening” part is that law enforcement authorities are “spreading misinformation” about the differences between marijuana and hemp.

“They’re cousins — one can get you high and one cannot,” Moon said. “They continue to blur that. That’s very unfortunate in my mind.”

Thayn is one voice of reason in an Idaho Senate that’s “on crazy pills,” Moon told Challis Lincoln Day attendees.

Moon kept her remarks on the initiative process and Medicaid expansion brief, urging fellow Republicans to call their legislative representatives and “let them know how you feel.”

Gestrin’s bill to allow chiropractors and naturopathic physicians to be licensed in Idaho to prescribe treatment such as medications, X-rays and MRIs by July of 2020 passed and was signed into law by Gov. Brad Little.

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