Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Senator: No legal pot in our state

2 bills put forth in state Legislature


By KATHERINE WUTZ
Express Staff Writer

A Republican state senator has introduced legislation to oppose legalizing marijuana in Idaho, a move that could put the kibosh on local efforts pushing for the state to follow Washington and Colorado.

Sen. Chuck Winder, R-Boise, brought forward two pieces of legislation that were scheduled to be heard before the Senate State Affairs Committee today, Feb. 20, at 8 a.m.  Public testimony will be taken, though testimony may be limited to three minutes per person depending on the number of people who sign up to testify.

The first is a joint memorial, SJM 101, which “seeks to respectfully notify” the U.S. Department of Justice, the United States Congress and Idaho’s congressional delegation that the Legislature opposes legalizing marijuana. It also asks the president of the United States and Congress to enforce federal anti-marijuana laws in all 50 states.

The second is a concurrent resolution. While it does not have the force of law, the resolution states that the Legislature opposes the legalization of marijuana “for any purpose” in the state.

Staff in Winder’s Boise office said the senator was not available for comment before press time Tuesday. However, Winder told the Associated Press on Feb. 8 that he is concerned about the initiatives passed in November to legalize pot in Washington and Colorado.

“It’s kind of like the immigration issue,” Winder told the Associated Press. “If [the federal government is] not enforcing the immigration issue, then it’s left to the states to do it. All we’re saying is, [marijuana] is causing problems to the cities and jurisdictions, so please enforce federal law as it comes to transportation of illegal drugs.”

State Sen. Michelle Stennett, D-Ketchum, a member of the Senate State Affairs Committee, said she could see both sides of the argument—marijuana is still illegal under federal law, and she understands the desire to ensure that young people don’t begin using the drug.

“I understand the effort to be conscientious about being drug-free for our children, but this is a small portion of the greater problem,” she said. “These bills will make a statement, but they won’t change the problems we have.”

She added that she feels abuse of prescription drugs is a greater problem than marijuana use.

In addition, Stennett said she does not agree with efforts to block medical marijuana from being legalized in the state.

Marinol, a synthetic prescription pill form of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, was approved for use for cancer patients by the Food and Drug Administration in 2006. Stennett pointed out that many chemotherapy patients are so nauseous that they cannot swallow this pill and keep it down—which is why smoking medical marijuana is the best way to alleviate nausea, which can lead to malnutrition if not treated.

“I have seen it in action to help people with true medical purposes,” she said. “So often with chemotherapy and advanced treatments, they are suffering as much from malnutrition as the illness. Those who would benefit from marijuana medicinally because of serious illness should not be collateral damage in an attempt to philosophically deal with drug abuse.”

Winder’s proposed resolution would likely interfere with any that the Blaine County Republicans—who recently expressed support for marijuana legalization—plan to bring to the party’s State Central Committee. 

The public hearing today in the Capitol auditorium was scheduled to be streamed live at www.idahoptv.org/insession/leg.cfm.


Kate Wutz: kwutz@mtexpress.com




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