When I read stories of families flocking to Colorado to get cannabis oil for their epileptic children, I sympathize with their journey to a strange new place. I’m too am red state refugee. I hitched a ride on the Undergreen Railroad back in 2003 to escape my birthplace of Boise, Idaho, for the lush greenery of Portland, Oregon. Since then, some of my friends from Idaho (as well as Alabama, Pennsylvania and Florida) have also left their homes, families, jobs, friends and schools for Oregon. Most of them were forced out by sincere medical need; others are like me and just refused to continue living somewhere that was hostile to our lifestyle.
One of the refugees is Lindsey Rinehart. She’s a multiple sclerosis patient who’d had her kids taken from her over her medical marijuana use. She had been the chief petitioner for Idaho’s medical marijuana initiative, but when faced with threats from the justice system to her family, she moved to Southern Oregon. Lindsey has now taken the concept of “Undergreen Railroad” and turned it into an organization dedicated to connecting patients with caregivers and rooms or properties to rent. If the Undergreen Railroad can raise some money for web coders and designers, they’ll also be able to collect income and education demographics from the people they help, so they can show the home states how much talent and money they are losing to medical migration.
Since Lindsey’s move, however, it’s been tough to get a medical marijuana initiative on the ballot in Idaho. The state senate passed a resolution declaring they would never ever, no way, no how, legalize marijuana in any way whatsoever. It’s symbolic and marijuana’s already quite illegal in Idaho (you can get misdemeanor jail time for just being high). The city of Boise has made sure the two-year-old hempfest is impossible to produce this year. Police and prosecutors paid extra special attention to the I-84 corridor that connects Boise to Ontario, Oregon, just 50 miles away. They shut down Ontario’s 45th Parallel, the only clinic / dispensary within a three-hour drive: Since Oregon is the only medical marijuana state with no residency requirement for patients, sick people in Idaho often made the trip and many of them got busted coming back home.
Still, I hold out hope for Idaho. My folks live there and my dad’s on a lot of pills that could be replaced with vaporized herb. It's disappointing that the initiative is written and could get on the ballot this year with a comparatively low (53,751) signature count, but there’s no money for signature gatherers. A well-placed source tells me for $50,000, this could be done, and the polling three years ago by Boise State University put support for medical marijuana at 74%, so it could win. Ah, if I only had $50,000. Imagine a state like Idaho going medical and locking in the entire Northwest in the same year Florida opens up medical in the South, and Alaska and Oregon, maybe more states, legalize recreational use!
But time is running out. The campaign would have just February and March to gather signatures. It can be done with paid petitioners, but impossible with volunteers. Plus, after this election, petitioning law changes so they can’t just get the signatures in the Boise metro area, where 40% of the state’s population lives. Next time, signatures will have to be gathered from at least 6% of voters in 18 of Idaho’s 35 legislative districts. There are 12 districts in the Boise area, so the next campaign will have to pay petitioners as far as 250 miles east in Idaho Falls and 400 miles north in Coeur d’Alene.
In the meantime, educational efforts continue. A source tells me of an upcoming in-depth TV news piece on medical marijuana patients in Idaho that tells the story of a man with brain cancer, given 90 days to live, who is still alive two years later after treatments with Rick Simpson Oil. The local FOX affiliate will be airing it Sunday after the Super Bowl. The man’s latest scans show him to be cancer free. Also, CNN and CNBC are showing interest in the Undergreen Railroad story. Finally, don’t underestimate the libertarian, rugged-individualist streak of Idahoans -- some of my most conservative, redneckiest relatives would vote for this.
I hope someone with money steps up soon to surprise us all and punk Idaho’s legislature by passing a medical marijuana initiative this year.