Do State Borders Really Matter in the Cannabis World?

States with legal cannabis usually have laws in place preventing people from bringing the drug in from elsewhere. The laws are in place due to the federal restriction against transporting cannabis across state lines. But let’s be honest. Do state borders really matter in the cannabis world? Probably not.

The border between Oregon and Idaho is virtually nonexistent where cannabis is concerned. One town in particular, Ontario, OR is a hot bed for cannabis sales to Idaho residents who live just across the Snake River. On the other side of the river is Boise, one of Idaho’s larger cities with a current population of about 700,000.

Cannabis Is Illegal in Idaho

At the present time, cannabis remains illegal in Idaho. It is not allowed recreationally or medically. But marijuana dispensaries in Ontario still sell to plenty of Idaho residents. One particular dispensary owner featured in a recent UPR piece put it this way: “we all know there’s legal cannabis in Boise.”

His point is well made, but he is still wrong. Just because people from Boise are purchasing marijuana across state lines in Ontario doesn’t mean the product that they are transporting back to Idaho is legal. It is not. The point of origin is not what makes marijuana illegal in Idaho. Marijuana is illegal in the state regardless of where it comes from.

Furthermore, it’s still illegal under federal law. When people talk about marijuana being legal in one state or another, they are technically incorrect. State-legal marijuana isn’t legal at all. Rather, state lawmakers have elected to decriminalize it. But decriminalization and legalization are two different things.

Selling Marijuana in Border Towns

There are plenty of people on both sides of the Oregon-Idaho border in favor of pushing that border to the west so that a number of more conservative Oregon counties are absorbed by Idaho. For Idaho’s part, one of their reasons is a desire to absorb Ontario and bring an end to selling marijuana in border towns.

Moving the border west would make the closest major city in Oregon hundreds of miles from the border. Meanwhile, marijuana would be made illegal once again in Ontario. Boise residents wouldn’t have such easy access to the drug, thus satisfying those in Idaho who want to keep it illegal.

States Trying to Control It

In fairness, states are doing their best to control the cannabis industry within their borders. Like so many others, Utah requires that all medical cannabis consumed in the state be produced, processed, and sold there.

You can go into the Deseret Wellness medical cannabis pharmacy in Provo and purchase medical cannabis with a valid card. You cannot cross the border to buy in Colorado, then bring your purchases back into Utah. At least that is what the law says. But how effectively can Utah enforce that law?

There have been a number of news stories in recent months detailing incidents in which Utah police have pulled over vehicles and found them carrying illicit cannabis. The vehicles were traveling through the state on the way to another destination. Yet police were only able to enforce the law because they had reason to pull over the cars in question. If a driver behaves himself and gives no reason for police to be suspicious, there isn’t an issue.

The states enact cannabis laws designed to make residents happy while simultaneously keeping Washington off their backs. Laws preventing interstate transport are a great example. But when push comes to shove, borders are largely meaningless. The residents of Boise and Ontario know it all too well. So do state lawmakers.