One of the most emotional legislative battles in recent Idaho history punctuated the 2015 Statehouse session, during which lawmakers ultimately secured passage of a measure that would have provided a legal defense for parents who administer cannabis oil to their children for relief from severe epileptic seizures.
The bill was welcomed by parents and some health providers, but Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter vetoed the measure a few days later, saying he would not condone legalization of the oil.
Instead, Otter issued an executive order for a limited trial, dubbed the "Expanded Access Program," which would allow 25 families to participate in treatment using a new cannabis-derived drug to treat severe forms of epilepsy.
A representative of the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare on Jan. 18 told members of the Idaho Legislature's Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee that four Idaho children were participating in the trials while 18 others were being screened for possible participation.
Elke Shaw-Tulloch, director of IDHW's Division of Public Health, said that the department had spent the better part of the past year working with federal officials to launch the trials. One of the new federal stipulations for the program requires participating physicians to store the drug in a safe in their medical practice, which would be inspected by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency. Shaw-Tulloch added that if more than 25 families step forward to participate, the department may ask the governor's office for more openings.
During 2015 testimony on the original Senate Bill 1146aa, experts said as many as 1,500 Idaho children needed access to the proposed cannabis oil treatment.