Idaho to Allow Children to Use Marijuana-Based Drug

In Idaho, up to 25 children suffering from debilitating seizures will soon be able to enroll in a limited program that will provide them with Epidiolex, an experimental CBD-based drug derived from marijuana. Outside of Epidiolex’s clinical trials, the FDA only allows a limited number of patients to receive the drug.

Idaho’s program is the result of an executive order by Gov. Butch Otter as a concession for vetoing a more broad based bill, S1146, that would have allowed any child suffering from seizures to receive CBD oil, not Epidiolex in particular.

In his veto statement, Otter wrote that while he sympathized with families of sick children, S1146 was just too open-ended for him to approve:

It asks us to trust but not verify. It asks us to legalize the limited use of cannabidiol oil, contrary to federal law. And it asks us to look past the potential for misuse and abuse with criminal intent.

However, there is little evidence that CBD-only marijuana laws have or will lead to more black market activity or that diversion will happen under the program.

Excluding states with legal medical and recreational marijuana, there are 15 U.S. states that have legalized CBD oil for patients suffering from debilitating seizures, including many of Idaho’s neighbors, like Wyoming and Utah.

Thus far there have been no reports of abuse under these systems and it seems unlikely that much will be reported given that the marijuana being grown only contains trace amounts of THC. Nevertheless, Otter is intent on staying within the guidelines of the FDA and federal law.

The medical program that Otter has authorized is part of an expanded access program for children resistant to epilepsy treatments. In order to qualify, applicants must have tried at least four different medications but still suffer from at least four seizures per month.

At this point in the bureaucratic process, state officials are waiting on approval from the Department of Justice before going forward with the program. Only one doctor, Robert Wechsler, has been approved to run the program and before he can do that the DOJ must sign off on modifying his Drug Enforcement Administration certification.

“They have acknowledged receipt, and they have four weeks to approve it,” state epidemiologist Dr. Christine Hahn told The Spokesman Review. “That is the last hurdle, and as soon as that approval is received and his DEA license is expanded to include the use of this medication for this purpose, we can start enrolling patients.”

Although this outcome is far from ideal for marijuana advocates and Idaho families with children suffering from epilepsy, this program does present an interesting opportunity for the marijuana movement as a whole.

Many lawmakers argue that medical marijuana programs should go through FDA approval before being implemented and Idaho’s program is attempting to make that happen. Considering Idaho’s program and CBD-only programs in neighboring states, both sides of the debate will be able to see which program produces better results.

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