Election 2020 Marijuana Legalization

A marijuana plant nearly ready for harvest is seen at Montana Advanced Caregivers, a medical marijuana dispensary in Billings, Montana. Recreational marijuana initiatives passed in four states this year, from liberal New Jersey to conservative Montana and South Dakota. An Idaho lawmaker is proposing to ban future legalization of any psychoactive drug in Idaho.

BOISE — Any “psychoactive drug” that was illegal in Idaho in 2020 could never be legalized, under a constitutional amendment proposed Monday by Sen. C. Scott Grow, R-Eagle.

Saying his proposal “protects the Idaho way of life,” Grow told the Senate State Affairs Committee, “Neighboring states have legalized controlled substances, to the detriment of their children, families and communities. This constitutional amendment prevents the erosion of Idaho statutes — as you know they can be changed each year — which currently control these substances.”

The Senate committee on Monday voted to introduce Grow’s proposal, clearing the way for a full hearing, with just one “no” vote from Sen. Grant Burgoyne, D-Boise. The move comes as all but one of Idaho’s neighbors have legalized medical marijuana, and some have gone further, legalizing recreational use of marijuana and lowering penalties for certain other drugs.

Grow’s proposal seeks to write into the Idaho Constitution the state list of controlled substances and the limits on them, as the list existed in state law in 2020, which Grow said he wanted to “lock in.”

But Burgoyne, an attorney, said there are problems with doing that.

“The code references can change over time,” Burgoyne noted. “What is in one title today, the title might be numbered differently tomorrow. … The Constitution would end up with references to code sections that either no longer exist or address different topics.”

“Generally, I’m in favor of debating almost everything,” Burgoyne said. “But this is not one of them.”

Grow said his proposal would make allowances for clinical trials and law enforcement practices. He said he opted to cite the state code sections rather than repeat the entire 10 pages of specifics already included in Idaho’s controlled substance laws.

To change the Idaho Constitution, the measure would need support from two-thirds of each house and from a majority of voters at the next general election, in November 2022.

Betsy Z. Russell is the Boise bureau chief and state capitol reporter for the Idaho Press and Adams Publishing Group. Follow her on Twitter at @BetsyZRussell.