Pubdate: Sun, 12 Jul 2015
Source: Idaho Statesman, The (ID)
Copyright: 2015 The Idaho Statesman
Author: John Sowell


Payette County Sheriff Chad Huff doesn't want to see his 72-bed jail 
filled with cannabis smokers.

Before July 1's legalization of recreational marijuana across the 
Snake River in Oregon, Huff spoke with his deputies. He encouraged 
them to cite and release violators of Idaho's marijuana possession 
law. Possession of up to 3 ounces of pot in Idaho is a misdemeanor 
punishable by up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.

"I've basically asked that they not overload our jail with marijuana 
arrests," Huff said. "We're going to take more of a citation in the 
field (approach) vs. an actual physical arrest on marijuana charges."

Huff said he told his deputies to use their judgment if there other 
circumstances that would warrant taking a marijuana smoker to jail. 
He just doesn't want the added expense of housing those violators, 
nor does he want to be forced to release other inmates if the jail fills up.

The sheriff has spoken to Payette County prosecutors and judges, 
asking them to consider assigning a person convicted of marijuana 
possession to a work crew or to another punishment other than jail.

Oregonians can grow their own

Under the new law, passed by voters in November, Oregonians can grow 
up to four marijuana plants per household. In Alaska, where 
legalization went into effect in February, residents can grow up to 
six plants in their homes. Washington and Colorado allow people to 
buy pot but they cannot grow their own.

In Oregon, people can also possess eight ounces of usable marijuana 
in their homes and up to one ounce - enough for about 28 joints - on 
their person.

"People are very interested in growing their own plants," said Flora 
Gibbs, owner of the Happy Hippy tobacco shop in Ontario. "I've had a 
lot of Idahoans asking about that, as well," explaining to callers 
that it remains illegal to grow marijuana in Idaho.

No retail sales until October

Measure 91 also allows marijuana to be sold in retail stores to any 
adult customer 21 or older, not just Oregonians. That won't happen 
this summer. The Oregon Liquor Control Commission, which is 
overseeing retail sales, will not begin accepting applications from 
those wanting to sell pot until January. Retail store sales are not 
expected to begin until fall 2016, said Tom Towslee, an OLCC spokesman.

However, the Oregon Legislature two weeks ago passed a bill that Gov. 
Kate Brown later signed into law that allows medical marijuana 
dispensaries to sell to all adults 21 and older beginning Oct. 1. The 
state has already licensed more than 300 of these stores, according 
to The Oregon Medical Marijuana Dispensary Program. Adults will be 
allowed to buy a quarter-ounce of marijuana per day from the medical 
marijuana dispensaries, along with seeds and immature plant starts, 
under the early purchase program.

Some counties, cities can ban sales

It is unclear whether Idaho residents will be able to buy marijuana 
legally without having to drive 130 miles from Ontario in Malheur 
County to Bend in Central Oregon. Under the same bill signed into law 
by Brown, cities and counties where at least 55 percent of voters 
cast ballots against the marijuana measure can ban retail and medical 
marijuana sales.

Fifteen counties meet the threshold, including Malheur, where nearly 
69 percent of voters disapproved. All the counties are east of the 
Cascade Mountains.

"If the city fathers and county commissioners follow the vote at the 
general election, it's going to be hard for Idahoans," Towslee said. 
"It's sure a long way to Bend."

Sales unlikely in Malheur County

Malheur County commissioners are almost certain to ban sales. Any 
suggestion that shops in rural portions of Malheur County - 
population 31,470 - will get the chance to sell marijuana will "go 
down in flames," said Dan Joyce, the chairman of the Malheur County 
Board of Commissioners.

Uncertainty in Ontario

Mayor Ronald Verini of Ontario, Malheur County's largest city with a 
population of 11,465, said he's not sure what the seven-member city 
council will do.

"How it turns out is anyone's guess," Verini said. "But I think the 
bottom line on this whole thing is that we want to do what we feel is 
best for the community. We want to do it with the understanding that 
public safety is A Number One in whatever decision we make."

If Malheur County, Ontario and the country's four other incorporated 
cities  Vale, Nyssa, Adrian and Jordan Valley  ban sales, Verini said 
authorities will still have to deal with residents having the legal 
right to grow marijuana and to smoke it at homes. "Even if we opt 
out, there still is, in general, the legalization of the product," Verini said.

Ontario store swamped with calls

Since marijuana became legal to possess and consume, the phone at the 
Happy Hippy has been ringing off the hook. Gibbs and her clerks have 
been fielding up to 50 calls a day from people wanting to know where 
they can buy marijuana and whether the store on Ontario's east end sells it.

The store, which has been open for four years, doesn't sell 
marijuana. It does offer glass pipes, vaporizers, grinders and 
rolling papers that could be used for marijuana, and Gibbs is 
interested in opening a medical marijuana dispensary if the city 
doesn't ban dispensaries and retail pot shops.

"I'm going to wait and see what my city council members do," said 
Gibbs, who lives in Ontario. "This has not been an easy task for our 
councilmen. They've had a lot to deal with from both sides, those who 
want it and those who don't.

Echoing Verini's thoughts, Gibbs, a Fruitland native whose husband 
grew up in Ontario, said public safety is her main concern.

"Whatever they decide to go with, we are OK with," she said. "We're 
going to do what the city says to do. This is our community and we'd 
like to make sure our community is safe, first and foremost."

Taxes could add 20 percent to cost

Under the legislation passed last week, the state will impose a sales 
tax of 17 percent on marijuana sales. Local governments can add a 3 
percent tax with voter approval.

The Oregon Legislative Revenue Office said the sales tax will produce 
more than $30 million in annual revenue.

The ironic part is that even counties and cities that ban retail 
sales will share in the profits. Counties and cities will each 
receive 10 percent of the taxes collected. Forty percent will go to 
the state school fund; 20 percent to mental health, drug and alcohol 
treatment programs; 15 percent to the Oregon State Police and 5 
percent fund a substance-abuse prevention campaign.

Ontario has a moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries that is 
scheduled to be lifted in August. The city has designated a 
commercial zone on the city's eastern flank next to the Snake River 
for medical dispensaries if the council does not ban them.

Ontario police to share information with Idaho officers

Mark Alexander, Ontario's police chief, said there won't be much pot 
going to Idaho from Malheur County without retail sales.

"You can give another person marijuana - that's legal to do," 
Alexander said. "We'll probably have some Idaho residents that will 
come over here and receive marijuana. But once they go into the state 
of Idaho, they're subject to their laws over there."

Oregon decriminalized marijuana in 1973, making a violation a 
noncriminal offense similar to a traffic ticket. Idaho still 
considers cannabis possession a criminal offense. Possession of more 
than 3 ounces is a felony, punishable by up to five years in prison 
and a $10,000 fine. Being under the influence of marijuana is public 
is a misdemeanor punishable by six months in jail.

Alexander said he plans to share information with Idaho police on 
Idaho residents found with marijuana in Ontario who may be returning to Idaho.

"Idaho law enforcement wants that information that people are going 
to be coming into their state with illegal marijuana," Alexander 
said. "We'll be working with Idaho officials on that."

The Idaho State Police does expect more marijuana possessions by 
drivers entering Idaho from Oregon, spokeswoman Teresa Baker said. 
The volume has increased over the past five years, she said.

"ISP has not changed the manner in which we enforce the laws of the 
state of Idaho in response to the legalization of marijuana in any 
other state," Baker said.

Likewise, the change won't alter Canyon County's enforcement of Idaho 
marijuana laws, county spokesman Joe Decker said.

No initial pot flood into North Idaho from Washington

Roger Lanier, interim police chief in Lewiston, said his department 
did not see a big increase in the number of people coming into his 
city with marijuana when Washington state began allowing retail sales 
in July 2014.

The city of Clarkston, across the Snake River from Lewiston, banned 
store sales and shut down a business, Canna4Life, which operated for 
seven days in June. A second shop, the Greenfield Co., opened late 
last month. The city later obtained a restraining order, forcing that 
shop to close, as well.

"State law says it's legal there, but it's not being as freely 
distributed - at this point - as I think everyone expected it to be," 
Lanier said. "So we haven't really seen this great increase."

Washington voters in November 1998 authorized patients with certain 
medical conditions to begin using marijuana, and that created a 
greater impact for Lewiston police, Lanier said.

"Washington has had medical marijuana legal for a number of years. So 
when the vote by the people to legalize (recreational) marijuana 
happened, I think we didn't see a difference, because we already saw 
that difference created by the availability of medical marijuana."

Lewiston police have dealt with a number of Idaho and Washington 
residents who either don't understand the laws of the two states or 
try to fool officers into thinking they're oblivious.

"It happens all the time. People come over, we have a contact with 
them, we find marijuana and they pull out their medical marijuana 
card or they say 'I'm a Washington resident,' like that trumps Idaho 
law," Lanier said. "We tell them it doesn't matter. You're not in 
Washington, you're in Idaho, and in Idaho it's illegal to possess marijuana.

"I don't know if they are really that ignorant or if they're just 
hoping we're ignoring it because they're a Washington resident."

Could Eastern Oregon benefit from sales to Idahoans?

Bolstered by sales to Oregonians, Main Street Marijuana in Vancouver 
was Washington's leading cannabis seller by far in May, according to 
figures from the Washington State Liquor Control Board. Main Street 
Marijuana sold $1.8 million worth of marijuana in May, generating 
$438,227 in state and local taxes. It was the third month in a row 
the company topped the list.

The second-leading retailer, Ocean Greens in Seattle, sold $637,786 
worth of marijuana. No. 3, Sativa Sisters in Spokane, had sales of $517,565.

Main Street owner Ramsey Hamide told The Oregonian that probably half 
of his store's business comes from Oregon residents.

Boise resident Bill Esbensen believes Ontario and Malheur County 
would benefit greatly from the influx of Idaho residents and others 
entering Oregon on the eastern border if retail sales of marijuana 
were allowed. But he doesn't expect that to happen.

"I think there will be a lot of Eastern Oregon that will opt out," 
Esbensen said.

Esbensen was the owner of the 45th Parallel Group, which operated a 
medical marijuana dispensary on Ontario's west side from 2010 until 
it was shut down by police in November 2013. He was later convicted 
of racketeering, conspiracy and delivery of marijuana. He served 
nearly five months in jail.

Esbensen belongs to a group, New Approach Idaho, that is circulating 
petitions to get a marijuana measure on the 2016 ballot. The measure 
would decriminalize possession of up to three ounces of marijuana, 
legalize medical marijuana and establish an industrial hemp program. 
The group needs to collect signatures from 47,623 registered voters 
by April 30 to qualify for the ballot.

In nine weeks of canvassing, the group has collected between 5,000 
and 7,000 signatures, Esbensen said.

"I really believe that attitudes have shifted and people see 
marijuana as a medicine," he said.

Concerns among medical pot advocates

Ontario resident Stormy Ray, who was co-chief petitioner for the 1998 
ballot measure that established Oregon's medical marijuana program, 
said medical patients were shoved aside as Oregon rushed to establish 
its recreational marijuana program. Medical marijuana advocates were 
told the passage of Measure 91 would not affect the medical program, 
she said, but through the banning of both recreational and medical 
marijuana shops in Eastern Oregon, it will make it difficult for 
patients to obtain their medicine.

Medical marijuana can be used in Oregon to treat cancer, glaucoma, 
agitation due to Alzheimer's disease, HIV and AIDS and post-traumatic 
stress disorder. Additionally, it can be used for medical conditions 
that cause severe pain, severe nausea, seizures or persistent muscle 
spasms. Patients must obtain prescriptions from a physician.

"Medical marijuana may not be a cure, but for many people it gives 
them a relief that allows them a better quality of life," said Ray, 
who uses medical marijuana in the treatment of multiple sclerosis.


Magazine finds legalization brings down the price of pot

Oregonians who start growing their own marijuana will be able to save 
from the average $204 per ounce that it costs to buy pot in the 
Beaver State, according to an analysis last month by Forbes.

The national average is $324. In the four states where pot has been 
legalized - Oregon, Washington, Colorado and Alaska - the price has 
fallen below $300, Forbes found using data from 
Users anonymously submit the price they paid to obtain marijuana from 
the black market or from an authorized dispensary.

The Idaho average is $275.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom