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Idaho View: Hoffman stands athwart history and yells: 'Stop'

This appeared in the Lewiston Tribune:

In its neighborhood, Idaho has become the outlier on marijuana policy.

Last Tuesday, Nevada joined Oregon and Washington in legalizing recreational pot.

To the north, Montana liberalized its medicinal marijuana policies, joining British Columbia to Idaho’s north.

And on Idaho’s eastern and southeastern borders, Wyoming and Utah at least allow people suffering from Dravet Syndrome and other forms of epilepsy to obtain a derivative of marijuana called cannabidiol. Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter disregarded appeals to the contrary and vetoed an Idaho cannabidiol bill.

So what awaits the 70-year-old Lewiston widow who drives into Clarkston and purchases a package of pot to alleviate her arthritis?

Or the Pullman resident who legally bought a small amount of pot at home — but forgot to remove it from her car before driving to Moscow?

What happens to the Missoula resident who, having obtained medicinal pot at home, drives toward Spokane and is stopped somewhere along the Idaho Panhandle?

And what about the parent who is able to obtain CPD oil in Jackson, Wyo., or Ogden, Utah, only to get caught in Twin Falls?

You know the answer.

Each of them is looking at a misdemeanor conviction, a possible $1,000 fine, up to a year in jail and the potential social and economic disruption that comes with getting busted for pot in the Gem State.

It’s bound to become even more complicated.

It’s a cinch that the cops and courts in border communities such as Lewiston or Moscow will be compelled to employ a more flexible approach than those in Idaho’s interior, such as Grangeville or McCall.

At what point does the culture of permissiveness bleed into some portions of Idaho, but not others — leaving a patchwork that is both arbitrary and capricious?

To which Idaho Freedom Foundation President Wayne Hoffman has — paraphrasing late William F. Buckley — stood athwart history and yelled “Stop.”

Hoffman is not the first to call for liberalizing Idaho’s pot laws. Five years ago, former state Rep. Tom Trail, R-Moscow, pursued a medicinal marijuana law.

In 2007, libertarian Ryan Davidson spearheaded a successful initiative to normalize pot laws in the city of Hailey.

But Hoffman is certainly the most prominent conservative to speak out. In his weekly newspaper column, he has put the question bluntly: “We must ask whether cannabis crimes are worth requiring working men and women to give up their day jobs and sources of income to sit on a jury that will deliberate on a punishment where only the drug user was impacted and where, in many instances, the user is arguably helped through marijuana use.”

To be clear, Hoffman is not advocating legalizing recreational use. But the options he raises reflects some serious contemplation on his part.

For instance, he asks, why not block the arrest and prosecution of anyone — especially Idahoans — who travel to another state, make a legal purchase and then do nothing more than take the marijuana home? At minimum, it gives people an incentive to exit the black markets.

Or go one step further and decriminalize possession of small amounts?

Finally, the state might consider licensing a network of medicinal pot dispensaries.

Mind you, a lot of this hinges on whether the new Trump Department of Justice continues the precedent set by the Obama administration — or cracks down on retail stores, dispensaries and any financial institutions that work with them. Whatever the feds do, they can’t force police, prosecutors and the courts to pursue something the voters have forbidden them to do.

Still, Hoffman’s on the right track. While Idahoans may resist outright legalization — at last check, only 31 percent support that approach — they’re more receptive to medicinal pot. Five years ago when Trail pursued the idea, the Boise State University Public Policy Survey found 74 percent support for allowing “terminally and seriously ill” patients to use marijuana. Last year, Dan Jones and Associates replicated the results, finding 58 percent support the idea.

Idaho’s elected leadership is deaf, dumb and blind to all this. So give Hoffman credit. He thinks the politicians should catch up with the people.

Reader Comment: Election musings

Let me be clear. I do not know anyone who voted for Trump because they wanted cover to be able to harm a range of people physically or mentally. Most of them are aware that globalization will not go away. Ever. Even in Idaho, too many farm products are sold overseas to stop international trade.

That said, I think I know some reasons why Trump won. He said with a great deal of assurance that he would change the way things are done in Washington. He said he would end the political power of the elites who every four years vie for jobs in the establishment. The ruling party gets the top jobs, the losing party gets less powerful ones, but they are all in the business of government and spend amounts of time courting the funds of donors who wish to have political influence.

Maslow and his hierarchy of needs has been ignored by policy makers. Right after the need to stay alive is the need for safety and security. People who are not currently food insecure are now job and shelter insecure. Seniors have not recovered the wealth they had in 2008 and the outlook for secure profitable investments is dim. More people are having to work more than one job to meet basic needs.

There is a group of people who saw substantial incomes vanish in the Great Recession. They are people who had skills learned on the job but with no degree behind them. Those jobs have gone away or are now being taken by degree holders who may have broader, more recent skill sets.

I must also mention terrorists and anarchists. All their tactics are meant to attack people’s feelings of security and safety. The scope of daily news coverage brings incidents of horrendous injury and death into homes where we expect to gather for succor.

There are town and small cities which have only one well paying “anchor industry,” and there are always rumors of it relocating for one reason or another. The loss of that industry means a whole town suffers not only a devastating loss of jobs but of property values. It’s hard to move with bankruptcy on your back. They do not want a more urban lifestyle, and the urban areas couldn’t support them if they did.

The next level of human need is love and belonging. Families are finding less time to be together. Parents spend more time securing decent housing and education for their children than they do physically caring for them. Social and civic organizations are foundering with the effects of the loss of new membership. There are fewer ties that bind throughout the middle class that aren’t associated with an insecure job market.

A little higher, but probably the tipping point is the need for esteem. Hillary said “deplorables” meaning hate mongers, but millions heard “anyone who isn’t part of the intellectual and social elite.” They were sure she meant them. Also, if you can’t meet the basic needs of the people who depend on you and you care for deeply, your self-esteem takes a beating. Trump’s rhetoric had all the energy of a sales meeting designed to convince people that they are part of the winning team.

One sign of the times that I haven’t heard discussed is the loss of The. Major. Breadwinner. Hillary was perhaps the poster girl for the woman who aspires to be powerful and/or top earning. The “women should do all the same things as men” drum is so loud that the fact that many women and men have other aspirations than money and power has been forgotten. There are a lot of families who would like one breadwinner and one family manager, thank you very much. They are willing to forgo a McMansion, but not a well-kept and safe neighborhood. They know of the disparity between those who can afford good health care and those who must ration doctor, dentist, behavior health, and physical therapy visits as well as prescription medication. They want good schools and well-kept towns.

Having economic flexibility means being able to be creative in meeting a family’s needs. The middle class has lost the economic ability to decide how much discretionary income to have and what sources it should come from. Even two income families are living at a level where most expenses are must haves and few are would like to haves.

No wonder they want change. No wonder they resent the portrayal of the sophisticated urban lifestyle as the norm in movies and TV shows and more rural areas as the habitat of lesser beings. No wonder they have little respect for people who manipulate image and fail to deliver substance.

I hope Trump delivers. If he does not, I doubt his supporters will say “Oh well, he tried. I guess no one can change anything.” We have come to believe that America is not a place for elites but is a place for innovation and opportunity. I doubt that message will change for quite a while.

Our View: Where's Idaho's outrage over Bannon?

It’s no surprise to Times-News readers that President-elect Donald Trump’s new chief strategist, Stephen Bannon, has an ugly connection to Twin Falls.

Bannon is the former executive chairman of Breitbart News, an online “conservative” site widely labeled as racist, xenophobic and misogynistic. His connection to Twin Falls, of course, is through Lee Stranahan, Breitbart’s “lead investigative reporter” who camped out here for much of the summer.

Stranahan stirred up plenty of trouble when he helped perpetuate the anti-Muslim myth that refugees were invading our community, raping our children and women and stealing our jobs. The most disgusting of his stories, to be sure, was a hit piece against Hamdi Ulukaya, the founder of Chobani, now one of the city’s largest employers.

The way Stranahan tells it, Ulukaya is destroying the American Dream, not living it. But as we’ve pointed out, Ulukaya, an immigrant, started his business from the ground up, grew it into one of the world’s most successful companies and is now giving back to his employers and communities. In just the past year, the company announced a $100 million expansion in Twin Falls, allocated shares of the company to employees and instituted parental paid leave. The company also pays employees beyond the minimum wage and offers benefits not typical for food-manufacturing jobs.

Last week, Sen. Mike Crapo said he would “carefully evaluate” Bannon.


For Idaho’s congressional delegation to say they don’t know much about Bannon is disingenuous, especially given what’s happened in Twin Falls over the summer. And just last week, both the Idaho Statesman and the Washington Post have featured stories about Breitbart’s coverage of Twin Falls and Bannon’s role in a Trump White House. So even if the congressmen and senators aren’t paying attention to what’s going on in their own districts, they’re reading about it in Washington.

Crapo and the rest of Idaho’s congressional delegation have all the information about Bannon they need to know he has no business being in the White House. And shame on them for not saying so.

As the Trump administration begins to take shape, political lines are being drawn. We hope Idaho’s elected leaders have the courage and integrity to align themselves with people on the right side of those lines. And by right, we don’t mean alt-right hate-mongers like Bannon.

Editor's note: This editorial has been updated to reflect that Bannon is Trump's chief strategist, not chief of staff.