Bill Manny

We heard Sen. Heider loud and clear through those closed doors: The people be damned

Hemp or pot: What’s the difference?

Now that SC farmers can grow industrial hemp, how well do you know your cannabis?
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Now that SC farmers can grow industrial hemp, how well do you know your cannabis?

Who better understands the proper function of the Idaho Legislature? The new legislator serving in the third month of his first session, or the veteran chairman of the Senate Health and Welfare Committee, serving in his eighth legislative session?

To answer that, consider their competing views of how to handle House Bill 577, which would allow people, such as children with a certain epilepsy, to get a doctor’s prescription to use an oil extracted from the cannabis plant.

“I think we have to remember that we represent the people, people who vote for us, people who are our friends.” This was Sen. Tony Potts, the Republican from Idaho Falls appointed in October to replace Sen. Bart Davis, arguing to hold a hearing on HB 577.

“The governor’s office doesn’t want this bill, the prosecutors don’t want this bill, the office of drug policy doesn’t want this bill.” This was from Sen. Lee Heider, the committee chairman from Twin Falls, who was overheard by a reporter bellowing behind closed doors. He dragged committee members into a private office when Potts had the nerve to ask for a committee hearing.

Sensibly, Sen. Maryanne Jordan, a veteran of hundreds of legal meetings and executive sessions in a decade and a half as a Boise councilwoman, declined to follow Heider into the private office. And kudos to Potts, with whom I took issue on a recent birth control prescription bill, for standing up for his beliefs and his constituents.

Fortunately, this is not the way most Idaho legislative committees operate. And, yes, Heider has since undone the bad act, recanted and apologized, explaining that he was “thrown off” by Pott’s surprise motion.

And yet.

Put aside the blatant illegality of deciding a bill’s fate in a closed-door room, as well as the violation of the very spirit of Idaho’s open government laws. Put aside the disservice this decision does for children and others who would benefit from access to a legal prescription. Put aside the Cheech-and-Chong-era hysteria that confuses a legitimate medicine with recreational pot.

Put those all aside and consider the message behind the words that Associated Press reporter Kimberlee Kruesi and others heard Heider bellow: The powers don’t want this, so the people don’t get to be heard.

This episode is disturbing on many levels, but the glimpse into the way that the powerful can casually conspire to deny the people a chance to even be in the room is the most disturbing.

CBD oil madness

Permit me a moment of curiosity about the political fuss over CBD oil. I get that some people fear that a pot-using camel might nudge its nose into Idaho’s marijuana-free tent. But opposing CBD oil because it could lead to marijuana legalization is like saying access to morphine in the hospital is the first step to legalizing heroin. It’s absurd.

Yes, Gov. Otter has been and remains opposed to CBD oil, despite the successful trial he asked for after he vetoed a similar bill in 2015. But he’s not going to be in power much longer, and most, if not all, of the major candidates for governor see that CBD oil can be managed like other prescriptions. The bill passed muster with the conservatives in the House, and has the backing of the conservative/libertarian Idaho Freedom Foundation.

The epidemic of opioids in our society should give us all pause to think through the dangers of prescription drug abuse. But how is a non-THC derivative of marijuana, used under the care of a doctor, less worthy of access than the dangerous and addictive drugs that have the enthusiastic blessing of the medical-pharmaceutical-industrial complex and its eager enablers in government?

Bill Manny is the Statesman’s community engagement editor:; 208-377-6406; Twitter/Instagram @whmanny.

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