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Politics & Government

Bipartisan Medical Marijuana Legalization Bill Introduced In Idaho House

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The Idaho legislature will now simultaneously consider proposals to both legalize medical marijuana and to ensure the drug is illegal under the state constitution.

The House Health and Welfare Committee Monday introduced a bipartisan bill to strictly regulate medical marijuana.

Only those 21 years or older who have one of 16 medical conditions would qualify for the program. That includes those with cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis or certain terminal diseases.

Doctors would need to prescribe specific dosages and concentrations of marijuana for their qualifying patients.

Up to 28 pharmacy sites around the state would dispense the drug. Patients would be limited in how much they could buy per month and marijuana would be limited in how much THC it could contain.

These pharmacies also couldn’t sell pre-rolled joints or vape cartridges.

Dr. Dan Zuckerman, the medical director for St. Luke’s Cancer Institute, told the committee he used to be skeptical of the drug’s medical uses.

“It’s impossible to deny the increasing evidence that medical marijuana is useful in certain circumstances,” Zuckerman said.

Specifically, he said it can be effectively used to treat pain and nausea brought on during cancer treatments.

The bill is named after Jeremy Kitzhaber, a retired Air Force veteran with terminal cancer.

Kitzhaber said he knows some patients with chronic diseases who drive across state lines to get marijuana to treat their conditions. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 36 states have already legalized medical marijuana and 15 have legalized recreational marijuana.

When asked by lawmakers whether such stringent restrictions under Idaho’s program would incentivize patients to hop the border to a neighboring state, Kitzhaber said he thinks most people would prefer to get marijuana in a legal way.

“I would be more than happy to pay $30 more for a two-ounce bottle of CBD/THC blend to help with my pain that’s recommended by my practitioner and legal in Idaho than to risk federal trafficking charges for coming across state lines,” he said.

Marijuana purchased outside of an Idaho pharmacy would still be illegal and the proposal wouldn’t allow people to grow their own plants at home, like some states do.

Lawmakers on the committee only asked general or technical questions before introducing the bill. It still requires a full hearing before it could go before the entire House.

Last week, state senators narrowly passed a proposed constitutional amendment that would make marijuana, among other drugs, illegal under the Idaho Constitution. Such a move would make it impossible for voters to legalize these drugs through a ballot initiative.

If the House signs off on the proposed amendment, the issue would go before voters in 2022.

Follow James Dawson on Twitter @RadioDawson for more local news.

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