Legislators move cannabis-derived medication legalization forward

By Ruth Brown, Idaho Reports

The House Health and Welfare Committee moved a bill forward that would legalize a medication derived from marijuana to help treat neurological conditions, through HB 446.

Kurt Stembridge, of Greenwich Biosciences, presented the bill to the committee. He explained that he anticipates the medication, called Nabiximols, will be legalized by the FDA and it is already legal in 25 countries.

Idaho has already legalized Epidiolex, a cannabidiol-derived medication used to treat seizures associated with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome or Dravet syndrome in patients two years of age or older.

If HB 446 passes, Nabiximols could only be obtained through licensed prescribers and pharmacists. 

Stembridge said when working toward approval by the FDA, the company will be required to prove the medication’s efficacy, as well as provide information on any drug interactions, side effects, adverse reactions and other details to ensure safety.

Nabiximols is an oral spray derived from marijuana and is being studied in the treatment of multiple sclerosis (MS) and other neurological disorders. Among other issues, it could help address spasticity in MS patients. Spasticity refers to feelings of stiffness and a wide range of involuntary muscle spasms, according to the National MS Society.

The bill that now heads to the House would allow the medication to become available for prescription only after approval by the FDA and scheduling as a controlled substance by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration.

Under current Idaho law, the medication would be classified as a schedule 1 controlled substance and would be illegal, preventing clinical trials.

Rep. John Vander Woude, R-Nampa, voted against moving the bill forward.

“I’m not going to support this,” Vander Woude told the committee. “I’m uncomfortable at this point because I feel like it’s opening the door for recreational and medicinal (marijuana).” 

Rep. Ilana Rubel, D-Boise, argued that when approved by the FDA, this medication would be less dangerous than opioid drugs that are currently used in Idaho. 

Committee chairman Rep. Fred Wood, R-Burley, who is a retired physician, will carry the bill to the House floor. Wood said he is confident the medication will be safe after its FDA approval.

“If you’ve ever seen a multiple sclerosis patient, anything we can do to help those people, particularly if it’s FDA approved, than I’m for,” Wood said. 

<strong>Ruth Brown</strong> | Producer
Ruth Brown | Producer

Ruth Brown grew up in South Dakota and her first job out of college was covering the South Dakota Legislature. She’s since moved on to Idaho lawmakers. Brown spent 10 years working in print journalism, including newspapers such as the Idaho Statesman and Idaho Press, where she’s covered everything from the correctional system to health care issues. She joined Idaho Reports in 2021 and looks forward to telling stories about how state policy can impact the lives of regular Idahoans.

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