Sep 302012
 September 30, 2012

Idaho marijuanaAttend The Idaho HOPEfest

Today Karri Gallaugher (Cannabis Karri), Kenny Davis (Cousin Kenny), and I (“Radical” Russ) will be appearing at the Idaho HOPEfest (Hemp Offers People Everything) at Ann Morrison Park in Boise, Idaho.  Karri and I will be speaking and Kenny and I will be playing blues and rock with the band Boi Howdy.

I was born and grew up in Nampa, Idaho, which used to be a small town in the county west of Boise, known as Canyon County.  It’s the conservative bedroom county to the next-door metropolis, akin to Orange County to Los Angeles or Washington County to Portland.  When I left Idaho, the county sheriff had been running drug-sniffing dogs through the local mall parking lot, then stopping the cars the dogs marked once they got onto the public roads.  He’d also floated the idea of requiring all landlords in the county to require clean drug tests from applicants for housing.

Heard on The Russ Belville ShowMain StageHemposiumEducational TentWalk About
“Radical” Russ Belville4:20pm; 7:50pm5:00pm; 6:00pm2:30pm1:00pm
Boi Howdy (Russ & Kenny)7:10pm
Cannabis Karri Gallaugher1:50pm6:00pm3:00pm4:00pm
Bradley Steinman7:05pm3:00pm12:30pm5:00pm
Serra Frank7:55pm6:00pm11:30pm
Lindsey Rinehart2:40pm; 8:45pm1:00pm7:00pm
Libertarian VP Candidate Judge Jim Gray4:00pm3:00pm; 5:00pm

So when I come back to Idaho, I always feel the hair on the back of my neck stand up.  I am literally a criminal when I cross the Snake River at Payette County.  According to Idaho Laws, marijuana “use or intoxication in public” is a misdemeanor deserving of six months imprisonment and a $1,000 fine.  Now, it’s not like I’m toking up in Ontario and coming across the border high.  But “intoxication” under Idaho law can be proven by my failure to pee clean on a drug screen.  I could stop smoking pot for a month and still fail a drug test.

Furthermore, when I come into Idaho, I save money by spending the night with friends who smoke marijuana.  ”Presence at location where marijuana is cultivated or stored” is also a misdemeanor, deserving of three months in jail and a $300 fine.

This breaks my heart every year.  My family and many friends still live in Idaho and I cannot visit them without breaking the law.  Practically, you might argue, there’s not much chance of being caught breaking these laws.  After all, I lived in Boise from 1990-2002 as a pot smoker and never got caught.  So long as I don’t get into a car accident or somehow arouse the suspicion of law enforcement, I should be OK.

But something changes when you live in Oregon, Portland especially, and you begin to experience what life can be for a pot smoker as at least a second-class citizen instead of a criminal.  That fear of seeing a police car driving not just behind you, but anywhere near you, goes away.  That trepidation about leaving the home, worried that the smell of marijuana on your clothes may somehow lead to handcuffs, evaporates.  It’s hard to go back to looking over your shoulder and following anti-law enforcement protocols.

So I hope my time in Idaho opens some minds and maybe changes a few.  You don’t have to like marijuana or marijuana smokers but it is time to stop treating us like criminals.  Let’s talk about this.

About Russ Belville

I am the executive director of and host / producer of The Russ Belville Show - The Independent Voice of the Marijuana Nation at - live from Portland, Oregon. I was the winner of The Search for the Next Great Progressive Talk Radio Star and a former host on XM Satellite Radio and Portland's AM 620 KPOJ. I was the Outreach Coordinator for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws from 2008-2012, which included lecturing all across America on marijuana legalization, writing political analysis for HIGH TIMES Magazine, and producing over 1,000 hours of video content for The NORML Network.
  • John Thomas

    I can relate, Russ. Similar experience was the main reason I moved from Oklahoma to California. Dr. John Beresford explains this difference felt in crossing our own “Iron Curtain” in his excellent article: “The Nazi Comparison.”

  • 2buds4me

    I swear I’m going to do a “fan leaf” tincture and stick it in a spray bottle – hose down the cars of the local police. Making the drug sniffing dogs useless and unreliable should be a doable thing – with concentrated effort by a few people in a targeted local. Spraying the back end of every cop car – having the dogs go nuts for no reason – make leo send them all off for retraining – or retirement.