| 03.24.2018

Gov. Otter’s cannabinoid oil veto wrong call


Otter’s veto leaves suffering children without treatment

The Idaho Legislature might have been adjourned, but that hasn’t stopped the ridiculous political moves coming from Boise.

The latest one comes from Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter.

Otter vetoed a bill last week that would have allowed Idaho children with severe forms of epilepsy to be treated with non-psychotropic oil extracted from cannabis plants.

Ryan Tarinelli

Ryan Tarinelli

Cannabidiol, the extracted cannabis oil also known as CBD oil, helps reduce the amount of life-threatening seizures among children with an intractable form of epilepsy. And here’s the best part — it wouldn’t get them high in the process.

Allowing access to CBD oil would have made a world of difference for the children who suffer from epilepsy as well as their families who continue to search for treatments.

In Otter’s veto order, he said there were too many questions and problems with the legislation.

Otter goes on to write in the message that he plans to issue an order that would allow the Department of Health and Welfare to study “an expanded access program for treatment-resistant epilepsy in children.”

But this is not the time for a study, and this is not the time for cautious leadership when it comes to the health and well-being of Idaho children.

It’s commendable that Otter would want to slow the legislative process down and find out more information about the extracted oil, but this is not the topic to do it on.

The need for CBD oil is immediate and the knowledge base proving these treatments are effective is too large to be ignored.

Although Otter’s sympathy for the families affected by his decision seem genuine, he should not drag his feet on a policy that could help many families across Idaho.

Many other states have approved similar CBD oil legislation to allow children with severe epilepsy to be treated. Among states where medical marijuana is illegal, 12 states have approved the use of CBD oil, including conservative strongholds such as Kentucky and Alabama.

Even if CBD is not completely effective in stopping seizures, there is certainly enough evidence to suggest CBD won’t be harmful to these children. With this in consideration, parents deserve the right to treat their children with CBD oil and Otter owes it to them to make treatments available.

In Otter’s statement, he argues that the legislation does not address “the potential for misuse and abuse with criminal intent.”

This argument is laughable. If someone were to misuse it, they would have a hard time getting high off of CBD oil with it having such a low THC content.

Critics of the bill have said it opens up the door toward marijuana legalization in the state. The slippery slope argument is weak and tired. This is a reasonable bill that places practical restrictions on cannabis for a practical purpose.

Like with so many other topics, Idaho is once again falling behind the rest of the country. With changing public perception across the nation and in the state, it’s time for Idaho to relax its laws on cannabis.

This was one of the few times the legislature did their jobs and passed positive legislation. This was the time for Otter to step up.

Instead, he offered skepticism and a longer wait time for the children and families pleading for a legal treatment.

Ryan Tarinelli can be reached at arg-opinion@uidaho.edu or on Twitter at @ryantarinelli

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