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Why Idaho Resists Joining Its Neighbors On Medical Marijuana

Photo by the National Institute on Drug Abuse
Photo by the National Institute on Drug Abuse

A group in Idaho has hit the streets to gather enough signatures to put a medical marijuana initiative before voters in 2012. Idaho remains the only Northwest state and one of a handful in the West that hasn't legalized pot as medicine.

The group Compassionate Idaho needs to gather 48,000 ballot signatures by the end of next April. They're proposing a measure that would allow patients suffering from a debilitating medical condition to get a medical marijuana card with a physician's approval.

The measure would require marijuana dispensaries to be non-profit and gives them permission to grow the pot.

Voters in other red states, including Montana and Alaska, have passed similar laws. But Boise State University political scientist Gary Moncrief says Idaho's particular hue of red could make that state a tougher sell.

"If this issue were framed as a libertarian, 'leave us alone' kind of issue, then it might stand a bit of a chance," Moncrief says. "On the other hand, there is a rather substantial cultural component here that's opposed to anything like marijuana."

A survey earlier this year by the Public Policy Center at Boise State found 74 percent of Idahoans support allowing seriously ill patients to use medical marijuana. But the same survey reports much less support for its sale and manufacture.

On the Web:

Idaho Medical Choice Act:

Medical marijuana laws by state:

Copyright 2011 Northwest News Network

Copyright 2011 Northwest News Network

Inland Northwest Correspondent Jessica Robinson reports from the Northwest News Network's bureau in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. From the politics of wolves to mining regulation to small town gay rights movements, Jessica covers the economic, demographic and environmental trends that are shaping places east of the Cascades.