Idaho’s Initiative To Legalize Medical Marijuana Is Failing Despite Public Support

By Adam Cotterell

There’s a group in Idaho gathering signatures to put an initiative on the November ballot. They want Idaho voters to legalize marijuana for medical purposes. There has been public support for medical marijuana in Idaho. In a 2011 survey by Boise State’s Public Policy Center, 74 percent of people said they support allowing seriously ill patients to use medical pot. But the ballot initiative is failing spectacularly.

Two weeks ago Idaho Secretary of State Ben Ysursa briefed lawmakers on work going on in his office. That included an update on a pair of ballot initiatives, one to increase the state’s minimum wage and one to legalize medical marijuana. Each would need nearly 54 thousand signatures by April 30th to make it on the ballot. 

Ysursa told lawmakers that with about 6,000 signatures gathered so far the minimum wage initiative might have a chance to make it onto the ballot. Medical pot is a different story.

Ysursa: “Obviously I believe the marijuana one has a long ways to go.”

Medical Marijuana supporters began their efforts a year ago. So how many signatures do they have so far? 206. That means they need 53,545 more.

Kendall Jeffs says "unless a miracle happens, we aren’t getting this ballot out in front of the people in 2014.” Jeffs, with the group Compassionate Idaho, is one of the leaders of the push to legalize pot. Since starting the petition drive the group has lost its top two leaders to states have legalized medical marijuana. One moved to Oregon and one to Washington. He says in their leaving, "they just kind of handed it off to maybe people that, like us you know, we’re just kind of rubes you know.”

Jeffs says she’s far from being a political organizer, in fact she’s a farmer. She says she started using medicinal marijuana when she lost part of her hand in a farming accident. But she was surprised to learn they only had 206 signatures. She says she’s gathered more than that on her own, and says "I think people are signing but they’re not registered voters.”

But Jeffs says she’s also had a lot of rejection. She thinks many people who personally support medical marijuana are afraid to put their signatures to it for fear of being connected to illegal drugs.
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