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Eye On Boise

House State Affairs reverses itself, passes cannabidiol oil bill

The House State Affairs Committee has reversed itself and voted 12-4 in favor of SB 1146a, the bill to allow Idaho parents whose children suffer from an intractable form of epilepsy that causes frequent, prolonged, life-threatening seizures, to treat their kids with cannabidiol oil, a non-psychotropic extract of cannabis. Committee members were clearly emotional as one by one, they explained their reasons for supporting the bill. Rep. Linden Bateman, R-Idaho Falls, said after voting against the bill Monday evening, “I couldn’t even sleep that night. I just tossed and turned all night long.”

Rep. Ken Andrus, R-Lava Hot Springs, said, “I think it’s a shame that we deny people who are desperate to do something for their children the use of a tool that’s out there, that they want to use.” Rep. Kathy Sims, R-Coeur d’Alene, said, “As a parent who lost a child, I do know there is nothing you won’t do, there is nowhere you won’t go.”

The director of Gov. Butch Otter’s Office of Drug Policy, Elisha Figueroa, had argued vigorously against the bill, saying it would open the door to legalizing marijuana. But Rep. Melissa Wintrow, D-Boise, said, “I really don’t think we’re opening any door here.” Rep. Vito Barbieri, R-Dalton Gardens, said, “I don’t believe that there’s going to be a flood of new cases into the criminal justice system. This is a major move toward helping the truly helpless.”

Rep. Don Cheatham, R-Post Falls, noted that the bill has had bipartisan support in both houses. “It’s a parental rights bill, and it’s a children’s rights bill,” he said. “It’s not about getting high. It’s about letting parents help their children.” Rep. Paulette Jordan, D-Plummer, said, “In researching this bill for the past two weeks, I found a lot of heartache. … I could not imagine what a mother or father has to put up with on their own at night with their child’s seizures.”

The only “no” votes came from Reps. Batt, Luker, Palmer and Holtzclaw. Luker offered a substitute motion to send the bill to the House’s amending order, to make changes including limiting the number of containers of the oil parents would be allowed to possess, but Rep. Pete Nielsen, R-Mountain Home, said, “I just can’t see where that’s going to be a problem. They’ll get what they need.”

After the vote, committee Chairman Tom Loertscher, R-Iona, who said he’ll carry the bill on the House floor, told the committee, “This committee usually has one or two tough bills a year. This year, this committee has had one or two tough issues a week. It has been a really interesting session for this committee.”

Loertscher said he hasn’t scheduled a hearing on another bill dealing with a similar drug, SB 1156, backing an FDA trial in Idaho. Asked if he was concerned that Otter might veto SB 1146a, given the opposition from his administration official, Loertscher said, “That’s a risk that we run here on any bill.” He said he’s not heard from the governor, or directly from Figueroa, on that.



Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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