After a long, emotional fight through the 2015 session of the Idaho Legislature where proponents of Senate Bill 1146aa ultimately secured passage of the measure which would provide a legal defense for parents of children who use cannabis oil for relief from severe epileptic seizures, Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter vetoed the bill in the late afternoon hour of April 16, 2015.
The bill had been the subject of some of the most emotional testimony of the recently-wrapped legislative session and, on more than one occasions, the bill appeared to be dead. Yet proponents of the measure kept pushing on, until both the Idaho House and Senate agreed that it should become law.
But Otter, who had sent his top drug czar to testify against the bill during committee hearings, said "There were too many questions and problems and too few answers and solution in this bill to let it become law."
"Of course I sympathize with the heartbreaking dilemma facing some families trying to cope with the debilitating impacts of disease," wrote Otter with his veto. "[The bill] asks us to legalize the limited use of cannabidiol oil, contrary to federal law. And it asks us to look past the potential of misuse and abuse with criminal intent."
UPDATE: April 6, 2015
Monday afternoon, the Idaho House approved in a 39-30 vote the much-debated Senate Bill 1146aa, which provides a legal defense for parents, grandparents and guardians of children who suffer from severe epileptic seizures when they choose to use a non-psychotropic cannabidiol oil for relief.
"You're going to hear a lot about how the sky is falling if we do this," said sponsor Iona Republican Rep. Tom Loertscher when he introduced the measure to the House floor.
And indeed, opponents pushed back hard in a two-plus hour debate, saying that approval was a "slippery slope" toward legalization of marijuana. But the bill, otherwise known as "Alexis' Law," doesn't legalize anything. Instead, it allows parents and guardians of children who suffer from extreme seizures to formally talk with their physicians, almost always neurologists, about the possibility of using the oil for relief. To date, it has been illegal for Idaho doctors to consult with their patients regarding the oil.
Rexburg Republican Rep. Dell Raybould told a heartbreaking story about how his granddaughter had died in his wife's arms after suffering through seizures through most of her five years.
"She suffered these seizures time and time and time again,' said Raybould. "Had this product been available then, we would have done everything in the world to use it."
But Democratic Rep. John Rusche, a physician, said he would vote against the measure.
"We need to know what we're doing here," said Rusche. "And the scientific study on the use of this drug is sadly lacking."
Boise Republican Rep. Lynn Luker called the issue, "the most difficult of the session and I have to vote no."
But Burley Republican Rep. Fred Wood, a former physician, said his yes vote "wasn't difficult for me at all. I'll sleep well tonight when I vote in favor of this."
Ultimately, Rusche was the only Democrat to join 29 Republicans in voting against the bill.
Monday's vote came less than one week after a stunning reversal from the Idaho House State Affairs Committee, which initially killed the measure in a tie vote but then picked the bill up again and passed it, sending it to the full House. The bill has already passed through the Idaho Senate and now it heads to the desk of Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter who has publicly voiced his opposition to the measure.