Bipartisan Medical Cannabis Bill Introduced in Idaho

Lawmakers in Idaho are set to consider a bipartisan bill to legalize medical cannabis even after a proposal to constitutionally ban all psychoactive drugs (including cannabis) was advanced from the Senate State Affairs Committee.

Full story after the jump.

The proposal to constitutionally ban all psychoactive drugs not currently legal in Idaho on Friday passed the Senate State Affairs Committee while House lawmakers on both sides of the aisle introduced a measure to legalize medical cannabis in the state.

The medical cannabis legalization bill was introduced by Reps. Ilana Rubel (D) and Mike Kingsley (R), who dubbed it the “Sergeant Kitzhaber Medical Cannabis Act” after Sgt. Jeremy Kitzhaber, 50, an Idahoan who served 22 years in the Air Force and is diagnosed with terminal Stage 4 cancer likely caused by his duties in the Air Force, which included handling radioactive materials, the bill’s sponsors wrote in an op-ed in the Idaho Statesman.

In the op-ed, the lawmakers wrote that they were sponsoring the legislation “because pain is not partisan.”

“We can get patients help for pain without stepping on a slippery slope, and this is what most Idahoans want. A 2019 poll from FM3 Research showed 72% of Idahoans were in favor of legalizing cannabis for medical purposes, and that number has likely climbed higher since the poll was taken. There is strong evidence cannabis is a much safer treatment than opioids and would better serve those suffering from a variety of illnesses, like cancer, epilepsy, ALS, and multiple sclerosis.” – Rubel and Kingsley in an Idaho Statesman op-ed

The medical cannabis bill requires cannabis to be dispensed in medical dosage form, including blister-sealed packaging in very limited doses, the lawmakers said, and it does not include home growing or production. Medical cannabis ID cards would be needed for possession and only medical providers who can prescribe opioids could prescribe cannabis. The proposal also includes provisions to revoke medical cannabis access for anyone convicted of using their card to obtain cannabis for another person.

Meanwhile, the bill to add the prohibition of all non-medical psychoactive substances to the Idaho constitution passed the committee 6-2 across party lines, ABC News reports.

Republican Sen. Scott Grow, the sponsor of the amendment to constitutionally ban the legalization of psychoactive drugs, said medical cannabis is “about money … not about caring for people who might have pain or sickness.”

Democratic Sen. Michelle Stennett argued that the bill would “prohibit Idaho doctors and patients from making medical choices” and directly “impact on the ability of Idahoans to do good medical health care.”

The measure also faces opposition from the St. Luke’s Cancer Institute Medical Director Dan Zuckerman, who said that in his experience with cancer patients – more than a decade – he has seen the efficacy of medical cannabis with his own eyes.

“The data is clear that patients benefit from this,” he said during his testimony.

The constitutional amendment proposal moves next to the full Senate. If approved by the Legislature, it would have to be approved by voters before being codified in the state constitution.

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