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Idaho's unique position in America's marijuana divide

Idaho's unique place in America's marijuana divide

POCATELLO, Idaho (KIFI/KIDK) - Canada officially legalized marijuana for recreational use on Wednesday putting Idaho on "an island" surrounded by legalization. 

To the west, Washington and Oregon. To the south, Nevada. To the east, Montana (medicinally). And now, to the north, Canada.  

Bannock County sits in an interesting position. Just off of the old Oregon Trail, a path that is still frequented by drug traffickers, law enforcement is often making arrests of people transporting the drug from one legal destination to another, with Idaho in the middle. 

"We have seen an increase in the amount of marijuana that's being trafficked through the state. And the seizures have gone up, substantially...several hundred percentage points up," Idaho State Police Captain Eric Dayley explained. 

While the drugs may be legal in bordering states, possession of any kind is still illegal in the Gem State. 

Officers who find people with the substance then have to prosecute and house the suspect, as well as hold on to any evidence, often housing hundreds of pounds at a time.

Law enforcement is then tasked with disposing of the substance. A process that involves taking the drug out of state, to Utah, and involving Board of Pharmacy supervision.

All of this adds up to a substantial expense to the state, especially for someone who might just be passing through. 

"On the ones where we know that they're just passing through if we didn't stop them, there really wouldn't be any impact to Idaho," Dayley said. 

It's cases of this sort the make Dayley believe both the Federal and State governments should take another look at these laws. 

It was just last year that Bannock County was identified as a HIDTA (high-intensity drug trafficking area,) with lots of marijuana and opioids flowing through. 

"So a lot of marijuana that's just passing through, there's marijuana and marijuana products that are coming into Pocatello to be sold," Dayley explained. "But there's a lot of opioids that are being trafficked into Bannock County, a lot." 

Heroin, meth and other substances also contribute to this designation and it appears that these substances carry the brunt of the focus.

"Our detectives focus on the methamphetamines and heroin a lot...they focus on that a lot...so we're all just trying to do the best we can to address the problem." 

The drug industry generates billions of dollars a year, both legally and illegally. Last year marijuana sales surpassed $9 billion in the United States. 

In November, Utah will vote on the matter of medicinal legalization with Prop 2. Even if it fails to pass there, a special session will be held in November, expected to pass some form of medicinal law. 

What the future holds for Idaho, only time will tell. November's elections will surely play a big role in whichever stance the state takes going forward. 


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