State lawmakers in Idaho rejected a constitutional ban on legalizing cannabis via a ballot initiative when the proposal failed to garner the necessary supermajority in a vote held on Thursday. The House of Representatives voted 42 to 28 in favor of the measure, only five votes short of the two-thirds majority needed to put the proposed amendment before a vote of the people.

Under the failed measure, a two-thirds majority in both the House and Senate would be required to remove a drug from Schedule l or Schedule ll on the state’s list of controlled substances, eliminating the possibility of such reform by a vote of the people. The measure was proposed by Idaho Republicans in an attempt to derail a campaign to legalize medical marijuana in next year’s general election and approved by the state Senate in February.

“The people of Idaho overwhelmingly would like medical marijuana—it’s off the scales,” Rep. Mike Kingsley, a Republican who voted against the amendment told his colleagues in the House. “Idaho is the last state to just hold out to not give people medicine that they need for cancer, for nausea. There’s so many people that medical marijuana works for, especially people that have bowel issues and bowel cancers, because opiates are very constipating.”

But lawmakers who supported the measure regurgitated tired prohibitionist tropes, conflating the risks of cannabis with more dangerous drugs and repeating the debunked notion of marijuana as a gateway drug. Kingsley challenged their position, noting that he had learned the truth about the plant.

“I’ve looked at this a lot, and nobody has ever overdosed on cannabis. Think about that. How many people have overdosed from opiates?” Kingsley asked. “I’ve seen how detrimental this drug is to people, and here we can give people an alternative.”

“We’re causing people in Idaho to be criminals who need the medicine,” he added. “I cannot think of a better definition of throwing the baby out with the bathwater. That’s what this bill will do.”

Measure Aimed Directly At Marijuana In Idaho

Rep. Chad Christensen, also a Republican, said that cannabis is not the “big, nasty” villain that many lawmakers characterize it as. He also noted that the amendment was intended only to block cannabis legalization, saying that Idaho’s electorate would never vote to legalize more dangerous drugs such as methamphetamines.

“This is a marijuana bill. Let’s call it what it is,” Christensen said. 

“Here we are worried about marijuana when the opioid crisis is a much bigger issue. Why aren’t we dealing with that?” he challenged.

Republican Rep. Judy Boyle said she has been against drug use for a long time and opposes recreational marijuana, but she would also like to see alternatives to opiates, which can be far more dangerous. 

“My mother got hooked on oxycontin as a 70-plus-year-old. We could not get her off it because she had pain issues,” Boyle said. “She ended up killing herself because of it.”

“So I am going to vote no, but it’s certainly not because I like drugs,” she added.

Rep. Ben Adams noted if the measure succeeded in the legislature, it would still have to be approved by a vote of the people in the 2022 general election when a medical marijuana measure will likely appear on the ballot as well.

“What I have heard people saying is, ‘Hey, maybe we need a medicinal path forward on cannabis.’ And there’s a ballot initiative on that, that people are trying to collect signatures for,” Adams said “And if they get that, then the people go to the polls and they will vote either yes or not. Why do we have to have two questions that ask the opposite side of the same question?”