BOISE – Idahoans with multiple sclerosis and other neurological disorders could soon have legal access to a pain relief spray derived from marijuana, under legislation introduced this week.
House Bill 446 provides a carve-out in Idaho code for nabiximols, an oral spray that’s undergoing clinical trials for possible approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
The bill is co-sponsored by Rep. Fred Wood, R-Burley, and Sen. Fred Martin, R-Boise, the chairmen of the House and Senate Health and Welfare committees.
“Any time there’s something that can benefit the people of Idaho medically, I want to be supportive of it,” Martin said. “I don’t support legalizing marijuana, but I do support the appropriate use of ingredients found in marijuana that can be beneficial.”
Nabiximols is being developed by GW Pharmaceuticals, the same company that developed Epidiolex.
Epidiolex is a pharmaceutical-grade cannabidiol or CBD oil that’s used to treat certain forms of seizures. The product was approved in 2018, and remains the only FDA-approved drug with active ingredients derived from the marijuana plant.
Nabiximols would be the second such drug. It contains a mix of CBD and THC, the psychoactive component in marijuana.
“It’s used to treat the spastic phase of multiple sclerosis,” Wood said. “(The manufacturer) anticipates getting FDA approval sometime this summer.”
In states that have legalized marijuana, he said, people can get nabiximols as soon as it clears the FDA and is scheduled on the list of controlled substances by the Drug Enforcement Agency.
In Idaho, however, THC and marijuana are both illegal. So even if the FDA and DEA approve nabiximols this summer, people will have to wait for the Legislature to take action next year before it can be prescribed.
HB 446 potentially shortcuts that process by several months.
“I don’t have a problem with that,” Wood said. “It will still be a scheduled drug, and probably Schedule II, which is as strict as you can get.”
The bill indicates nabiximols would be legal only in a drug product approved by the FDA.
“Upon passage of this legislation, nabiximols will become available for prescription only after approval by the FDA and scheduling as a controlled substance by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration,” notes the Statement of Purpose.
The legislation was introduced in the House Health and Welfare Committee on a voice vote and can now come back to the committee for a public hearing.
In recent years, the House has generally been more receptive than the Senate to the idea that there are medical benefits to marijuana and/or its components.
A bill legalizing medical marijuana was introduced in the House Health and Welfare Committee last year, but never advanced to a full hearing.
The Senate, by contrast, approved a proposed constitutional amendment that would give the Legislature the sole authority to legalize marijuana or other illicit drugs. That legislation subsequently failed in the House.
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