First time offenders caught with small amounts of marijuana in Idaho could get a break under a new bill.
The proposal from Reps. John Gannon (D-Boise) and Eric Redman (R-Athol) would instead turn a misdemeanor possession charge into a civil infraction for those found with less than a half ounce of pot.
Offenders would have to undergo a four-hour drug and alcohol class and either perform eight hours of community service or pay a $250 fine.
That person is still initially charged with a misdemeanor until all conditions have been met.
“This is not legalization, but it is a recognition that if an offender wants to take care of the problem, society will not punish the offender forever with a criminal conviction,” Gannon says.
Idaho lawmakers have historically been opposed to tweaking laws regarding marijuana.
Gov. Butch Otter (R) vetoed legislation in 2015 that would’ve let those with severe epilepsy disorders to use a oil derived from marijuana – but contained little to no psychoactive elements – for treatment.
He later signed an executive order to approve a few dozen spots for these patients to enroll in a clinical trial with CBD oil.
22 states and Washington D.C. have passed laws to decriminalize pot, which doesn’t just apply to first time offenders. Eight states and D.C. have fully legalized the drug for recreational use, including neighboring Nevada, Oregon and Washington.
Gannon says his bill isn’t a step toward legalization. He’s concerned about future job opportunities for those with drug convictions on their records – especially since it can prevent them from getting federal student loans.
“The reality of society is that people, especially when they are younger, make mistakes and I don’t think a lifetime criminal record is appropriate.”
The House Judiciary and Rules Committee introduced the bill, but haven’t yet scheduling a hearing.
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