New shop plans to sell CBD oil in Garden City. Will Idaho marijuana laws allow it?

Welcomed Science co-owner Michael Larsen hopes to open the store in Garden City “in the next couple of weeks.”
Welcomed Science co-owner Michael Larsen hopes to open the store in Garden City “in the next couple of weeks.”

To Michael Larsen and John Chaves, the cannabidiol oil products they plan to sell at Welcomed Science in Garden City offer a legal remedy for pain, anxiety and inflammation.

But because the product, known as CBD oil, is derived from marijuana plants, the store likely will prompt law enforcement to take a look when Welcomed Science opens at 5155 N. Glenwood St. later in May.

Larsen said that the oil contains no THC, the compound in marijuana that causes the drug’s high, so users remain sober. Because the oil is processed outside of Idaho from hemp stalks, the products do not violate marijuana laws, he said.

The business owners consulted attorneys and a 2015 informal opinion issued by the Idaho Attorney General’s Office, Larsen said. The owners also consulted with the owner of Global CBD, a store selling CBD products in Sandpoint in northern Idaho.

“We contacted some friends who work in extraction to create an effective product that was legal with the laws as they currently stand in Idaho,” Larsen said.

Shawna Dunn, a prosecuting attorney in the Ada County Prosecutor’s Office, said she couldn’t yet say whether the CBD oil is or isn’t legal.

“I’m not in a position to hypothesize,” Dunn said. “I’d need a lab test to comment.”

Larsen said the products are lab tested, ensuring the products are THC free. Those test results will be available at the store.

Larsen was sold on CBD oil’s therapeutic value about a year ago when he started taking an oil made by a friend in California to treat his anxiety. The treatments worked, and he began researching CBD oil’s potential as a treatment and business opportunity.

“I hated taking anxiety meds, which are highly addictive and have side effects that seem endless,” he said. “CBD has been a more natural option, which is important to me.”

In 2015, the Idaho Legislature passed a bill allowing CBD oil to treat intractable epilepsy or seizure disorders, similar to a law passed by Utah in 2014. Gov. Butch Otter vetoed the bill. At the time, the Spokesman Review reported that Otter’s Office of Drug Policy and the Idaho State Police criticized the CBD oil bill as a step toward marijuana legalization.

After vetoing the bill, Otter created a trial program involving epileptic children. About a year into the program, 39 children from around the state had gotten treatment.

To run the trial, the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare selected Dr. Robert Wechsler, medical director at the Idaho Comprehensive Epilepsy Center in Boise. In February, Wechsler reported to the Senate Health and Welfare Committee that he expected the trial drug administered via drops under the tongue, to receive regulatory approval.

Wechsler said that about two-thirds of the children reported benefits from the CBD oil treatment, and that about 20 percent of participants had experienced a reduction in the number of seizures, according to the meeting transcript. Some families in the trial reported that the intensity and durations of seizures had decreased with the treatment.

He said the trial drug was as promising as any other epilepsy drug for children. However, he said, it was likely that patients would see diminishing benefits, as is often the case with promising drugs.

The Idaho Office of Drug Policy works as an extension of Otter’s office to prevent drug abuse. The office has no enforcement power. Administrator Elisha Figueroa said that CBD oil is illegal under Idaho and federal law, regardless of THC content.

Larsen said he’s confident Welcomed Science’s business plan is viable and legal. The owners have received an “outpouring of support” from the community, he said.

“Our goal is to help bring an effective option to those who are suffering with different issues that they’d like to try to improve through CBD,” he said.