Grow drug debate

Sen. C. Scott Grow, R-Eagle, argues for his bill, SB 1218, to make it a crime to knowingly promote or advertise illegal drugs in Idaho for commercial purposes.

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Sen. C. Scott Grow’s new bill that he said would make it a misdemeanor to “knowingly promote or advertise the sale of illegal substances” in Idaho – aimed at nearby Oregon marijuana businesses just across the state line, with Grow citing billboard advertising as an example – has passed the Senate on a 21-14 vote with bipartisan opposition. The bill was just introduced yesterday, and cleared a Senate committee earlier today on a party-line vote despite all-negative public testimony. Opponents said it appeared to threaten 1st Amendment rights, including promoting a medical marijuana initiative now circulating for the 2022 Idaho ballot.

Grow said no one should be promoting something that’s illegal. Sen. Grant Burgoyne, D-Boise, noted that he’s constantly being solicited to ride a “Fun Bus” to Jackpot, Nev. to gamble – something that’s not legal in Idaho. “It reminds me of Peter Rabbit and Mr. MacGregor,” he said. Lawmakers seem to be grasping at straws to stem the change in public opinion about marijuana, he suggested, despite fighting a losing battle.

Earlier, Grow sponsored two different versions of a proposed constitutional amendment aimed at preventing Idaho from ever legalizing any drugs that were illegal as of this year, with marijuana as a particular target, but the House killed it.

Sen. Lee Heider, R-Twin Falls, said, “This is just one more step to making Idaho the place we all want to live in and have the freedoms we enjoy. … To have billboards advertising (Oregon marijuana businesses) just seems totally erroneous to me.”

“These businesses need no additional advertising,” said Sen. Abby Lee, R-Fruitland.

Seven Republicans joined all seven Senate Democrats in voting against the bill. The dissenting Republicans were Sens. Bayer, Patrick, Riggs, Vick, Den Hartog, Zito and Johnson.

Opponents cited concerns ranging from CBD advertising to the impact on Spokane TV stations to constitutional concerns.

The bill makes it a misdemeanor “for commercial purposes, to knowingly promote or advertise the sale, delivery, distribution, manufacturing, or preparation of a schedule I controlled substance,” or drug paraphernalia.

The bill, SB 1218, still needs passage in a House committee, approval by the full House, and the governor’s signature to become law. The bill is co-sponsored by Sen. Patti Anne Lodge, R-Huston, the Senate State Affairs chair; Rep. Brent Crane, R-Nampa, the House State Affairs chair; and Rep. Gayann DeMordaunt, R-Eagle.

Betsy Z. Russell is the Boise bureau chief and state capitol reporter for the Idaho Press and Adams Publishing Group. Follow her on Twitter at @BetsyZRussell.

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