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New Idaho bill would create $420 mandatory minimum fine for marijuana possession

If passed into law, bill would add mandatory minimum fine for possession of less than 3 ounces of pot

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Anyone convicted of possessing small amounts of marijuana in Idaho would receive a mandatory minimum fine of $420 if a new bill introduced in the Idaho Legislature becomes law. 

House Bill 606 is Rep. Bruce Skaug’s second attempt to pass a bill creating a mandatory minimum fine for possession of less than 3 ounces of marijuana, after House Bill 559 was introduced on Feb. 13.

On Tuesday, Skaug, R-Nampa, told members of the House State Affairs Committee that House Bill 606 replaces House Bill 559 and makes a technical correction. The difference is the newest bill adds language that basically says any other penalties specified in state law can also be applied, in addition to the $420 fine. 

If passed into law, the new bill would amend the existing penalties in Idaho law for manufacturing, delivery or possession of controlled substances. Idaho law already specifies that anyone possessing more than 3 ounces of marijuana can be punished with a prison sentence of up to five years and a fine of up to $10,000, or both. The new bill simply adds a fine of not less than $420 for possession of less than 3 ounces of marijuana. State law describes marijuana as “all parts of the plants of the genus cannabis, including the extract or any preparation of cannabis which contains tetrahydrocannabinol.”

The $420 fine is a known reference to slang for getting high on marijuana. During Tuesday’s short introductory hearing, Skaug also dropped several marijuana-related puns when he told committee he “smoked out” the problem in his last bill and ran the changes by his assistant, “Mary Jane.”

Other than Wyoming, Idaho’s neighboring states have legalized medical or recreational marijuana. Utah allows for the possession and use of medical marijuana for qualified patients who have a medical cannabis card. Washington, Oregon, Montana and Nevada allow recreational marijuana. 

Tuesday’s hearing was only an introductory hearing, which does not include public testimony. 

Introducing House Bill 606 clears the way for the bill to return to the House State Affairs Committee for a full public hearing. 

During Tuesday’s meeting, House State Affairs Committee Chairman Brent Crane, R-Nampa, told legislators that in an effort to move the 2024 legislative session along, legislators will likely need permission from Republican House leaders to introduce any new bills after Thursday. 

The Idaho Legislature’s so-called non-privileged committees already faced a Feb. 12 deadline to introduce new bills. Cutting off the introduction of new bills helps move the session along and generally results in the bulk of the workload shifting from legislative committees to the floor of the Idaho House of Representatives and Idaho Senate, where bills are debated and voted on.


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