Opinion: Look who’s supporting legalized pot

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  • Photo courtesy of Duane Rasmussen Alex Barron

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  • Photo courtesy of Duane Rasmussen Alex Barron

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Idahoans have gotten the hang of deciding things for themselves.

Genuine debates and robust campaigning over those two propositions in November — not to mention big spending and high turnout — suggest that we’ll see more of the same down the road.

And the next issue is obvious …

Cannabis.

Much like Medicaid expansion, legalization of marijuana and its by-products will never find any serious political backing in the Legislature.

To be blunt, Idaho’s large Mormon population (mostly down south) and the powerful LDS influence throughout our government suggests that — if left to lawmakers in Boise — there will be 48 states with some form of legalized cannabis while we sit out in isolation.

With Utah, obviously.

But we learned just two months ago that Idaho voters have no fear of offending legislators and their roadblock mentality on some touchy issues.

And if Medicaid expansion meant enough to Idahoans that the initiative was approved with 60 percent of the vote, then legalizing cannabis might be just as easy to pass.

Yes, there are all the usual arguments — pro and con — to rev up backers and opponents, but, hey …

Look around.

WE’RE NOW pretty much surrounded by states where some form of marijuana is legal.

And, seriously now, do you think Idahoans by the thousands aren’t making those short dashes across the border?

There’s plenty of cannabis being used or smoked in this state, and it’s worth noting that all the tax money involved in those sales has just blown away to Washington or Oregon.

For a low-tax, fiscally conservative state like Idaho, simply throwing away money that is desperately needed — widening I-90, anyone? — makes no sense at all.

There’s another fascinating piece to a potential initiative on legalizing cannabis here.

It’s one of the few issues on which Idaho’s Democrats, Independents and its most conservative Republicans can agree.

The Democratic side is a cinch, because even though we think of Idaho as a bright red state, it’s not as though there are only a couple dozen non-Pachyderms.

Paulette Jordan, running with virtually no experience or in-state backing, got nearly 40 percent of the vote in her race for governor against shoo-in Brad Little.

“The math is against us in one-on-one races, especially in North Idaho,” said Rebecca Schroeder, who ran what was considered an excellent race against Jim Addis for state representative in District 4 — but still only mustered a tick over 43 percent.

The mistake, though, is talking about the total as though only Schroeder’s family voted for her. That 43 percent does mean something when you put it into a larger context.

It’s 7,945 people.

“In statewide issues,” Schroeder said, “there are easily enough liberals and independents to join with some Republicans if the issue is right.

“Seeing how easily Proposition 2 passed proved that, without a doubt.”

AH, BUT there is another unique perspective to the cannabis issue.

The state’s true conservatives, those whose desire is to keep the government out of everything possible, look at cannabis a bit the same way as they see guns.

It goes like this, and it’s not surprising …

You have no business telling me how many firearms to keep, nor can you decide what I grow and what I smoke.

It’s a classic libertarian viewpoint.

Listen to Alex Barron, perhaps North Idaho’s ultimate traditionalist conservative and the self-styled Bard of the American Redoubt …

“I believe Idaho should end the prohibition of cannabis, by generally decriminalizing the production (for personal use), regulated sale, possession and use of cannabis by adults,” Barron wrote.

”We should also consider commutation to time served for any citizen of Idaho who remains incarcerated solely based on convictions for the production, sale, possession or consumption of cannabis.

“The current prohibition of cannabis is wrong because it offends the concept of free will and minimal laws to orthodox Christians, rooted in a history of racism, largely based on bad science, and is no longer supported by the American people.”

BARRON CLEARLY is correct on the support issue, as state after state decriminalizes cannabis, and just this year, a study by the Pew Research Center showed that 62 percent of the population nationwide believes that marijuana should be legal.

There definitely are dissenting viewpoints, however.

Lee White, the Coeur d’Alene police chief, cited the increased number of traffic fatalities in Colorado after weed became legal.

At the same time, there are medical studies in New Jersey and Pennsylvania that seem to show a dramatic drop in opioid deaths wherever cannabis is legal.

My point here, though, is not to cast a vote.

It’s to suggest that, much like the populist decisions we saw rendered in November, the decision on whether to legalize cannabis in Idaho is likely to start on street corners, book clubs and town halls …

Not in the Legislature.

•••

Steve Cameron is a columnist for The Press.

A Brand New Day appears from Wednesday through Saturday each week.

Steve’s “Zags Tracker” column on Gonzaga basketball runs on Tuesday.

Email: scameron@cdapress.com

Facebook: BrandNewDayCDAPress

Twitter: @BrandNewDayCDA

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