BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Expressing firm opposition to dozens of states that have legalized marijuana in recent years, the Idaho Senate on Wednesday approved a proposed constitutional amendment that would prohibit the legalization of pot and other psychoactive drugs in the state.
The Republican-dominated Senate just barely mustered the two-thirds needed to pass the measure with a 24-11 vote.
If the House approves the legislation with the required two-thirds majority, it would go before voters to decide in 2022, where it would need a simple majority.
Republicans have super-majorities in the two chambers. Some Republican senators said they voted in favor of the amendment to simply allow voters to decide.
“Senators, we have a duty to protect our children, our families, our communities from the scourge of drugs and the drug culture which we have seen go clear across this nation,” Republican Sen. Scott Grow said in opening the debate on the Senate floor for the legislation he sponsored.
Backers of the amendment said it’s needed because surrounding states have legalized pot and they fear that could happen in Idaho. Senators claimed states with legalized recreational marijuana have experienced a decline in health, crime increases and huge expenses that outweigh tax revenue from marijuana.
Those opposed to the constitutional amendment said it would permanently ban medical marijuana patients with terminal illnesses or chronic pain from getting the marijuana they need.
All seven of Idaho’s Democratic state senators voted against the legislation, citing the need to keep medical options open for marijuana and new and experimental drugs that could help patients. They were joined by four Republicans who said they were troubled by altering the state’s constitution, or felt banning marijuana would impinge on personal freedoms.