Idaho medical marijuana advocates can start gathering signatures for 2020 ballot initiative


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A look at how medical marijuana is grown, processed and sold at Curaleaf, one of Florida’s larger medical marijuana companies. Robert Levy, director of cultivation at Curaleaf, offers a tour of the high tech grow house. BY EMILY MICHOT | MARTA OLIVER CRAVIOTTO

BOISE – Medical marijuana advocates have until April 30, 2020, to collect signatures from 55,057 registered Idaho voters to get an initiative on the general election ballot next year.

Idaho Secretary of State Lawerence Denney on Friday announced the petition filed with his office has met all requirements, and petitioners are cleared to begin collecting signatures.

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Idaho Cannabis Coalition, which filed the petition, must collect the signatures from at least 18 of Idaho’s 35 legislative districts and include signatures from at least 6% of registered voters from each district to qualify the proposal for the ballot.

The Idaho Medical Marijuana Act calls for “establishing a medical marijuana program for qualifying patients and protect participants from criminal prosecution and civil sanction.”

The chief petitioner is John Belville, a 77-year-old Idahoan who says the opiates he’s been prescribed by his doctors for his peripheral neuropathy are causing his organs to fail, according to news release.

“Medical cannabis has been shown in numerous scientific studies to be especially effective at relieving neuropathic pain,” said Belville’s son, Russ Belville, spokesperson for the Idaho Cannabis Coalition. “Having visited me in Oregon and trying it for himself, my dad knows what millions of Americans in 33 other states already know: Medical marijuana works for his condition, period.”

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John Belville said he was born and raised in Idaho, and has spent his life working and hunting here.

“I want to be able to live out my last years here in Idaho,” he said. “Without medical marijuana, there will be fewer of those years and they’ll be filled with pain. Why shouldn’t I be able to use the same medical marijuana that people are using legally across almost every Idaho border?”

The use of marijuana for medical purposes is legal in 34 states and Washington, D.C., according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Medical marijuana is legal in all states bordering Idaho except Wyoming.

So far, Idaho has one other proposed ballot initiative for the 2020 election. The Boise-based group Idahoans for a Fair Wage has started a campaign to increase the minimum wage to $12 an hour from $7.25 over four years. Idaho’s minimum is the same as the federal minimum wage, which has not changed since July 2009. This proposal has the same signature-collecting requirements and timeline as the medical marijuana proposal.

This article was first published by the Idaho Statesman. It is used here with permission.