Apparently it’s a hard knocks life for teen cannabis smokers in Idaho.
As reported by the Lewiston Tribune in the Gem State, a prosecutor recently charged three teens—ages 14, 15 and 17—with felonies for cannabis possession. In the past, this misdemeanor offense would net a maximum jail sentence of 90 days, but under the state’s new tough-on-drugs policies, these teens might be looking at five years a piece.
The new law (Senate Bill 5052), signed by the governor earlier this year, says that cannabis possession is a felony for everyone, including minors. State Senator Ann Rivers, who sponsored the bill, said, “We have to send a message to our kids: This will hurt you in more ways than one if you decide to participate.”
Fittingly, the Facebook page for the Idaho Office of Drug Policy spews the most ignorant anti-cannabis propaganda imaginable, and it demonstrates how data can be twisted for prohibitionist purposes. Last week, the page’s Myth Buster Monday attempted to dispel the argument that “legalized marijuana does not impact youth use,” and it cited 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) data to show that states with legal cannabis have higher average rates of cannabis use among young people.
Interestingly, we utilized the same data to show the opposite this past week. How is that possible? Rather than focus entirely on 2014, we looked at the cannabis-use trajectory between 2004 and 2014 to see if the usage rates for youth increased as states legalized recreational and medical cannabis. The data actually showed that the average rate dropped ever so slightly over the past decade. Yes, cannabis-usage rates are higher in states that allow some measure of legal use, but the fact that legalization typically happens through ballot initiatives clearly demonstrates that these are states whose citizens as a whole view the plant in a more positive light. Most people in Idaho, as you might imagine, view the plant negatively.
How does this bode for the three minors? If convicted for felony marijuana possession, all three teens might be in their 20s by the time they taste freedom again. The grassroots organization New Approach Idaho is gathering signatures to put medical cannabis and decriminalization on the November 2016 ballot, which will certainly be a tough sell in the prohibition-heavy state. Still, any form of legalization in Idaho cannot come soon enough for these three teens.