Idaho lawmakers spent nearly two hours Wednesday morning debating the politics of marijuana after listening to public testimony—both proponents and opponents of two largely ceremonial measures proposed by Boise Republican Sen. Chuck Winder.
"It's just a statement of this Legislature," said Winder. "It doesn't prohibit any future discussions or the initiative process that's going on."
If passed, Senate Concurrent Resolution 112 would state that lawmakers of the 62nd Idaho Legislature oppose any effort to legalize marijuana for any use, while Senate Joint Memorial 101 calls on the federal government to "ensure that federal drug-free policy is upheld in all states."
Winder said they were brought to him by the Idaho Association of Cities, and both Homedale Mayor Paul Fink and Garden City Mayor John Evans spoke in favor of the measures, with support from police officers from the Meridian and Boise police departments and the Idaho Chiefs of Police Association.
"I'm asking, I'm begging, I'm pleading with you on all four hands and knees to find another way, because marijuana is not the answer," said 16-year-old Nick Chaffin
Chatham from Idaho Falls.
Chatham was one of numerous young adults wearing bright red shirts that said, "Don't Let Idaho Go to Pot."
The measures were met with opposition by many of those who testified, including Lindsey Rhinehart, director of Compassionate Idaho,, who told lawmakers she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at an early age and that medicinal use of marijana can ease pain.
"Sick and dying people shouldn't have to leave the state or be considered criminals to use the medication they need," she said.
Brian Loomis asked committee members to consider the case of his son, who he said was caught smoking marijuana and ultimately charged for possession of a controlled substance. Through tears, Loomis said the charge will remain "on my son's record forever."
"You are not the first or the last father who will have the heartache you just described to this community, myself included," responded an emotional Idaho Falls Sen. Bart Davis. "Your comments, to me specifically, on needing to find a path to expungement, rings true. It's my hope that will be addressed this year."
It wasn't until after 10 a.m. that the committee took a voice vote, which passed along party lines. Ketchum Democrat Sen. Michelle Stennet and Boise Sen. Elliot Werk voted "no" in opposition to their Republican colleagues.
Both measures now move to the Senate floor. Winder emphasized that, if passed, the measures don't change any laws.
"It's just a statement that the Legislature would make regarding our opposition to recreational use, legalization, because of the impact we're now seeing in Oregon, and Washington, Colorado. That's the primary reason. And it's to start the discussion. Don't wait for the petition to be out there, and then try to react to it. Let the public be aware," he said.