Boise, ID – A Democratic Idaho state lawmaker has introduced a bill seeking to decriminalize drug possession for personal use amounts of fentanyl, methamphetamine, cocaine, and heroin.
State Senator Grant Burgoyne’s proposed law change would also allow defendants to enter into chemical dependency treatment under certain circumstances using the same procedure as involuntary mental health commitments, the Marietta Daily Journal reported.
“I have heard from many of my constituents that there are too many people in Idaho prisons,” Burgoyne told the paper. “Idaho has a drug addiction problem, and we cannot arrest our way out of it.”
“To be clear, I am not asking that we legalize drug use, but we should consider decriminalization,” he added. “We need to start treating drug addiction with robust rehabilitation.”
Under the bill, possessing “trafficking” amounts of illegal drugs would continue to be a criminal offense.
However, the “trafficking amount” is high enough so that drug dealers could easily operate while possessing less than that quantity.
Those in possession of less than 28 grams of methamphetamine or cocaine wouldn’t have to worry about being arrested, nor would those who have less than two grams of heroin, the Marijuana Moment reported.
The law change would also allow people to posses up to 25 marijuana plants or less than one pound of marijuana without risking prosecution.
Burgoyne introduced the legislation as a “personal bill.” Such bills do not go through regular committee process and rarely even receive a hearing, according to the Marietta Daily Journal.
But in this case, the bill has been referred to the Judiciary and Rules Committee, and Chairman Todd Lakey has agreed to hold a hearing, Burgoyne told the Marijuana Moment.
Burgoyne said his main intention is to get citizens and lawmakers talking about treatment options rather than punishment, according to the Marietta Daily Journal.
Those who actually work with drug offenders were quick to speak out against the proposed legislation.
In a joint statement, the Idaho Prosecuting Attorneys’ Association, Idaho Chiefs of Police Association, Idaho Fraternal Order of Police, and the Idaho Sheriff’s Association declared that the proposed law change “would be catastrophic to every Idaho community” if it was to be passed, the Marietta Daily Journal reported.
The groups also said that the bill would leave Idaho with “the weakest drug statute in the country.”
“We don’t need to look far to see what these types of laws and policies have done to surrounding states and cities,” the joint statement read. “For example, Seattle, Portland, Salt Lake, and California are struggling with the decriminalization of drug possession and the devastating consequences it has had on their communities and public safety.”
“This bill goes far beyond what even those cities and states have done and legalizes drug possession,” they added.
The groups also noted that “fact-based evidence” shows that the offenders who land in prison are almost always repeat offenders, the Marietta Daily Journal reported.
“It is simply not true that first time ‘non-violent drug offenders’ fill Idaho’s prisons,” they wrote. “Idaho’s citizens are being misled and this uninformed messaging is encouraging policies that will jeopardize public safety.”