State Politics

Under this proposal, first-time pot offenders could receive infraction instead of misdemeanor

A person convicted of misdemeanor marijuana possession in Idaho would be able to ask a court to change the conviction to an infraction, under proposed legislation introduced Monday.

Rep. John Gannon, D-Boise, told the House Judiciary, Rules and Administration Committee that the provision only applies to a person’s first offense and if the amount of marijuana in possession is a half-ounce or less.

Under Idaho law, possession of 3 ounces or less of marijuana is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a $1,000 fine and/or one year in jail.

“The change from misdemeanor to infraction only can occur after a court-made decision, so after pleading guilty or a finding by a jury of guilt,” Gannon said.

First-time offenders would then have the option of paying a $250 fine or complete eight hours of community service, along with four hours of drug and alcohol education classes.

“Then that person is eligible to receive an infraction, as opposed to the misdemeanor,” Gannon said.

The committee voted to introduce the bill and hold a hearing on it at a later date. If the bill passes through the committee, it would then head to the House floor for debate.

Several committee members wanted to ensure that should Idaho legalize hemp, this bill, if it too passes, would clarify the legality of hemp and illegality of marijuana.

“I just want to know if we need to put that in there for clarification, so if our farmers are able to grow (hemp), our farmers do not get arrested,” Rep. Christy Zito, R-Hammett, told the committee.

If both bills pass this session, Gannon explained, they would be reconciled to ensure compatibility.

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Idaho Statesman investigative reporter Cynthia Sewell was named Idaho Press Club reporter of the year in 2017 and 2008. A University of Oregon graduate, she joined the Statesman in 2005. Her family has lived in Idaho since the mid-1800s.
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