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Eye On Boise

After veto, Idaho moves to allow 25 sick kids access to cannabis-derived drug

Idaho is just weeks away from enrolling up to 25 children with severe epilepsy in a free program to provide them with an experimental, non-psychoactive drug extracted from marijuana, under an executive order from Gov. Butch Otter. But estimates of the number of children eligible for the program are much higher – 1,500 or more. Otter signed his executive order in April after vetoing legislation that would have allowed the use of cannabidiol, a low-THC oil extracted from cannabis, to be used legally in Idaho to treat children with severe seizure disorders. The measure passed both houses after long and emotional hearings, but Otter’s Office of Drug Policy and the Idaho State Police decried it as a step toward legalizing medical marijuana.

Idaho is now alone among all its surrounding states in banning any form of marijuana use, for medical or other purposes. Wyoming this year legalized the supervised use of cannabidiol oil, also called CBD oil, to treat intractable epilepsy or seizure disorders; Utah did the same in 2014. In 2013, the Idaho Legislature overwhelmingly passed a resolution against ever legalizing any form of marijuana use for any purpose.

“Idahoans are not afraid of being different than their neighbors,” said Elisha Figueroa, director of Otter’s Office of Drug Policy. “I think that they are wanting to protect their way of life. And so just because our neighbors choose to go down one road does not mean that we will automatically go down that road, if we don’t feel like it’s the appropriate one for us.” Figueroa said she supports the new, limited distribution program. “This is really what we want to see happen, is that we follow the approved FDA process to ensure that medications that we receive have gone through the proper vetting process,” she said. You can read my full story here at

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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