New Idaho Marijuana Advocacy Group Emerges From Failed Legalization Attempts

Dec 4, 2014

Marijuana advocates have so far failed to get a medical or recreational pot initiative in front of Idaho voters.
Credit Park Ranger / Flickr Creative Commons

Leaders of a marijuana advocacy group that was launched two weeks ago say they’ve attracted more than 200 volunteers. New Approach Idaho wants to put a ballot measure before Idaho voters in 2016 to legalize medical marijuana.

It was formed, in part, by members of groups that have failed to legalize medical pot in the past, including Compassionate Idaho and Idaho Moms for Marijuana.

New Approach Idaho co-founder Bill Esbensen says the new group was needed to give Idaho’s marijuana advocates a fresh start.

“I’m very optimistic [about the possibility of legalization in Idaho], just from the numbers I’ve been seeing in the volunteers, and people who are calling and asking what’s going on,” Esbensen says.

An effort to get a medical marijuana initiative on Idaho’s ballot this year failed after volunteers worked for more than a year and gathered only a few hundred signatures. Esbensen says previous groups struggled because of lack of money and poor organization.

“I think over the past two times that this was tried, the organization was not organized like a business and that was part of the reason for the failures,” he says.

Esbensen has business experience. He operated a licensed marijuana dispensary in Ontario, Ore. But in 2012 police shut it down and Esbensen was convicted on several criminal charges including selling to undercover agents and overcharging. He is appealing the case.

Find Adam Cotterell on Twitter @cotterelladam

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