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Eye On Boise

Bill to legalize CBD oil wins unanimous support of House Health & Welfare panel, moves to full House

After a two and a half hour hearing with passionate testimony on both sides, the House Health & Welfare Committee has voted unanimously in favor of HB 577, Rep. Dorothy Moon’s bill to legalize CBD oil, which is derived from marijuana, in Idaho. Committee members expressed shock at the news that Epidiolex, once legalized, likely will cost $30,000 to $60,000 a year. That’s the commercial version of CBD oil manufactured by a British pharmaceutical company that’s currently pending FDA approval; nearly three dozen Idaho children with intractable epilepsy are being treated with Epidiolex through a drug trial, and many have shown substantial reduction in seizures.

Rep. Christy Perry, R-Nampa, said people in Idaho are using CBD oil illegally now, and no one’s died. She also noted that the pharmaceutical firm’s stock is up pending FDA approval, and noted that Naloxone, an anti-opioid overdose drug, also has been soaring in price as states move to use it more to combat opioid overdoses. “We have an absolute opioid epidemic … from a series of drugs that the FDA put out and approved that are highly addictive and that have created tremendous problems for us,” Perry said. “We’re sitting here fighting a system that seems to be based on money, rather than what’s good for the public. It’s been incredibly frustrating for me. When we talk about people having access to medication … who’s going to be able to access it, who’s going to be able to afford it?”

Committee Chairman Fred Wood, R-Burley, said, “Cannabidiol oil less than 0.3 percent (THC) certainly is not marijuana. That is a supplement, and it ought to be regulated as a supplement from the FDA. The problem we’ve got, and we heard plenty of testimony today, is it’s just like the AIDS epidemic when AIDS was finally identified. AIDS was not treated as an infectious disease process, it was politicized and treated as a civil right. So we lost 25 years of scientific research and everything, because it was politicized. That’s exactly what’s going on with marijuana. This whole process is politicized.” As a result, he said, the FDA isn’t permitted to look scientifically at the distinctions between CBD oil, marijuana, hemp and other related products. CBD oil, he said, “would clearly fall into the category of a supplement, and it oughta be regulated as a supplement. It has no business being a legend drug.”

Rep. Sue Chew, D-Boise, said, “My concern really was the lack of certainty with regard to potency and contamination. … But, you know, the thing for me is that I want access and affordable access for people. This $30,000, $60,000 a year stuff is not affordable to most people in Idaho, and I would like relief. My hope was that that was something that would be a reasonable remedy – I don’t think it is. So in that case, I will be voting in favor of Rep. Moon’s bill today.”

Moon said, “My bill talks about oil. I’ve seen a lot of people trying to muddy this up – I think it’s clear as a bell. … I’ve got dozens and dozens of co-sponsors throughout the Legislature who know that this is the time. We are a compassionate people.”

The bill still needs passage in the full House and Senate and the governor’s signature to become law. Lawmakers passed legislation in 2015 to allow parents to use CBD oil to treat ill children, but Gov. Butch Otter vetoed it, citing concerns about expanding the use of illegal drugs in the state.

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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