- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 24, 2015

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - The Idaho Senate has approved legalizing oil extracted from cannabis plants to treat children with severe forms epilepsy after lengthy and sometimes tearful debate from lawmakers urging the bill’s passage.

Senators voted 22-12 on Tuesday to decriminalize the oil, a non-psychotropic extract of marijuana.

The bill is named after 10-year-old Alexis Carey, who has a rare but intractable form of epilepsy called Dravet Syndrome. The genetic disease causes severe and multiple seizures, which often leave parents wondering if their child’s seizure will pass or turn fatal.

Alexis’ parents have spent the past year and a half lobbying the Idaho Legislature to legalize the oil, arguing that it reduces the amount and length of seizures in children with intractable forms of epilepsy.

However, while the bill is advancing slowly through the Statehouse, it still faces opposition from lawmakers hesitant to stray from Idaho’s strict anti-marijuana laws.

“Marijuana is illegal in this country,” said Sen. Marv Hagedorn, R-Meridian, who voted against the bill. “And I’m afraid compassion is inching us down a road that logic will not allow us to go.”

Originally, the bill didn’t legalize the oil, but instead provided a legal defense for parents possessing the product. However, lawmakers amended the bill before voting.

Sen. Jeff Siddoway, R-Terreton, argued the Idaho Legislature should do all that it can to help suffering children.

“Certainly at times in my life, I’ve been called a mean, heartless bully and I’ve deserved that. I hope as I’ve aged and grown older that maybe those labels don’t fit quite as well as they once did,” Siddoway said. “But there are some 1,500 children in the state of Idaho that are suffering from some sort of intractable form of epilepsy, and if one of those children belonged to me, I would certainly I would make sure that I did all that I could to relieve the suffering of that child.

Other lawmakers shared personal stories of watching loved ones writhe from fatal diseases and having no opportunity to help them in their pain.

Twelve states have legalized the oil while still banning medical marijuana. Virginia legalized the oil Feb. 26. In Utah, lawmakers have given initial approval to let those with chronic and debilitating diseases consume edible marijuana products, while still banning smoking.

Marijuana extract oil first received attention when a Colorado family fought and won for access for their daughter who also had Dravet Syndrome.

It is similar to hemp oil, which is legal in Idaho and can be bought in grocery stores.

The legislation now heads to the House.

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