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Idaho Bill Would Create Minimum $420 Fine for Possessing Small Amounts of Weed



Many would argue that the legalization of recreational cannabis across all 50 states is essentially inevitable at this rate. Some states without recreational cannabis laws in place are practically surrounded by others that have introduced reform. 

Pennsylvania, for example, just saw Gov. Josh Shapiro calling on state legislators to get a move on and legalize. “It’s time to catch up,” Shapiro said earlier this month, arguing that the longer the state goes without legalizing adult-use cannabis, the more Pennsylvania will miss out on revenue and economic opportunities.

Idaho is also mostly surrounded by states that have legalized cannabis in some form — Washington, Oregon, Nevada and Montana have all legalized cannabis for medical and recreational use, while Utah has legalized for medical use. Wyoming, like Idaho, has yet to legalize cannabis for medical or recreational use.

Though, unlike Pennsylvania, Idaho lawmakers are taking a different approach. Instead of working toward cannabis reform, a newly introduced bill would create a mandatory minimum $420 fine for possession of less than three ounces of cannabis, the Idaho Capital Sun reports.

Further Potential Penalties for Cannabis Possession in Idaho

Rep. Bruce Skaug introduced the legislation, HB 606, as his second attempt to pass a bill creating a minimum fine for cannabis possession of less than three ounces. He previously introduced HB 559 on Feb. 13, though this new bill is meant to replace the former and makes a technical correction. 

HB 606 adds language noting that any other penalties specified in state law can also be applied alongside the $420 fine.

Current Idaho law specifies that possession of less than three ounces of cannabis is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year imprisonment and/or a fine of up to $1,000. Anyone possessing more than three ounces of cannabis can be sentenced to up to five years in prison and/or pay a fine of up to $10,000.

Skaug (R-Nampa) introduced HB 606 on Tuesday to members of the House State Affairs Committee, additionally dropping a number of weed-related puns as he told the committee he had “smoked out” the issue from the last bill and ran the updates by his assistant, “Mary Jane.” The fine amount of course is a nod to 420 — a nickname for weed and a reference to the widely celebrated cannabis holiday of April 20.

The Tuesday hearing was introductory, so the next step for HB 606 is to return to the House State Affairs Committee for a full public hearing.

Idaho’s Ongoing Push for Cannabis Reform

For those keeping up with Idaho’s track record on cannabis, it’s not surprising that the state has taken a less than progressive approach as surrounding states move ahead with reform measures.

Gov. Brad Little has been vocal about his anti-cannabis reform stance, including measures surrounding medicinal cannabis access and industrial hemp production. Shortly after he was elected in 2019, he said if Idahoans want legal cannabis, “they elected the wrong guy as governor.”

Little was re-elected in 2022, and Idaho does not have term limits for governor.

Though, it does appear that residents are open to the idea of medicinal cannabis reform. A 2022 SurveyUSA poll found that 68% of Idaho adults believe that medical cannabis should be legal in the state. And a citizen-led statute to legalize medical cannabis could potentially make it to the Idaho ballot later this year.

The Idaho Medical Marijauna Act 2024 is sponsored by nonprofit Kind Idaho and first received clearance in April 2023 to begin signature gathering. The campaign has until April 14, 2024 to collect approximately 63,000 valid signatures, or roughly 6% of registered voters from the most recent general election.