Friday, March 1, 2013

Senate splits difference on pot decrees

One of two resolutions gains approval in Boise

Express Staff Writer

The Idaho Senate split the difference on two marijuana resolutions Monday, voting to keep one but reject the other in an attempt to oppose legalization but maintain states’ rights.

The Senate State Affairs Committee had voted last week to pass the two resolutions after two hours of testimony from both sides of the issue. The first resolution, SCR 112, states that the Idaho Legislature is vehemently opposed to legalization of marijuana for any purpose. 

The second resolution, SJM 101, states that the Legislature is opposed to legalization of marijuana, and further asks that the president, the U.S. Department of Justice and Congress step in and enforce federal anti-drug laws in nearby states that have legalized marijuana for medical or recreational purposes.

Some members of the public argued last week that marijuana causes promiscuity, mental illness, higher levels of impaired driving and a less employable workforce; others argued that marijuana provides effective relief for medical conditions such as multiple sclerosis, nerve damage and depression.

The Senate committee agreed with the former group in voting for the bill, and so did the rest of the Senate, approving the first resolution with a 29-5 vote. The resolution cannot bind future legislatures to this policy, but states clearly that the current legislature feels that “drug legalization efforts in other states have led to social, economic and legal chaos” and that the Idaho Legislature opposes any such efforts in this state.

Sen. Michelle Stennett, D-Ketchum, was one of five Democrats to vote against the resolution. Stennett also voted against the second resolution, and has stated in the past that she supports the use of medical marijuana for people such as cancer patients who literally cannot eat without the nausea-suppressing action of marijuana smoke.

The second resolution failed on a closer vote, with 13 in favor and 21 against. Many GOP legislators stated they opposed marijuana legalization and use, but that they were uncomfortable with a precedent that would be set by the resolution of urging the federal government to interfere with state laws.

Sen. Roy Lacey, D-Pocatello, said during the hearing that he felt that in light of last week’s discussion regarding states’ rights and health care, he could not support the resolution.

“Much of our time last Thursday was spent talking about how we didn’t want the federal government to be involved in our state rights,” he said. “Now we’re asking Big Brother to be involved in the other states.”

Sen. Les Bock, D-Boise, stood up during roll call to explain his “nay” vote, saying he could not believe the Senate was even considering the measure.

“The hypocrisy and inconsistency in this bill we’re considering right now just astounds me,” he said.

The first resolution, which opposes legalization, will now be considered by the House.

Kate Wutz:

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