Speaking with the aid of a breathing tube, Shelly Vulgamore's voice quivered as she detailed a long and grisly list of ailments to the Idaho House Environment, Engineering and Technology Committee Wednesday in Boise. Up to 18 seizures a day. Her intestines re-routed. Heart attacks.
"I have a lump in my breast they're not even concerned about," said Vulgamore. "I can only eat a half a cup of food because nothing works right inside me."
Her ailments are the result of being hit by a car traveling at more than 50 mph. And the reason she was sharing them with the Legislature was to explain why Idaho needs to legalize medical marijuana, something she currently has to travel to Oregon to get and cannot legally possess in Idaho.
"The cannabis is the only thing that's gotten me to where I am. I'm not active, but at least I can get through the day," said Vulgamore.
Making medical marijuana legal would allow Vulgamore to easily purchase it in a variety of foods, such as butter, honey and baked goods, instead of just the smokeable variety sold illegally.
"You shouldn't have to go to a drug dealer to get medicine," she said. "It's degrading."
Cannabis replaced the 600 mg. of opium suppositories Vulgamore previously used for pain for what she called "stage-four end-of-life issues."
"I'm an Idahoan," said William James Esbensen of the 43rd Parallel Compassion Group. "I still own businesses in this state. I own houses in this state. But I had to move to Oregon so I wouldn't go to jail."
Their testimony was on House Bill 19, an effort to legalize medical marijuana dispensaries submitted by Rep. Tom Trail, a Moscow Republican. It's an issue Trail feels is especially important since Idaho is bordered by states that have legal medical marijuana.
"Over 300 families have relocated to Oregon to get legal relief to their pain," said Trail. "When they come back to Idaho, they live in the shadows of fear."
Trail quoted Texas representative and libertarian hero Ron Paul as saying that medical marijuana is really an issue of states' rights. Trail also said that of the 14 states that have legal medical marijuana, those that addressed the issue through the Legislature rather than with citizen referendums have had better outcomes. He also said FOX News commentator Glenn Beck is a supporter.
Vulgamore best summarized the feelings of all the speakers.
"We should not be afraid of being arrested because we use medical cannabis," she said.
The committee then adjourned until Monday, when they will hear more testimony on the issue.
UPDATE: Kristina Ross has already been behind bars for more than four months. When she is sentenced on April 21, she faces a maximum penalty of a year in jail and a $1,000 fine for her guilty pleas to two counts of misdemeanor battery.
Ross garnered national attention in November 2010 when she was accused of posing as a plastic surgeon and fondling women in Treasure Valley bars. Her original charges, practicing medicine without a license, could have landed her in state prison for up to 10 years.
Ross was pale and appeared tired when she entered the Ada County courtroom of Judge John Hawley Jr. this morning. Local television news cameras were present in the courtroom.
The State Senate Health and Welfare Committee will be briefed this afternoon on Idaho's problem-plagued Medicaid claims processing system.
Legislative auditors will officially present their report today but an advance copy of the audit revealed that the Medicaid processing mess, which snowballed through much of 2010, could wind up costing Idaho more than $2 million. The report concludes that neither the Department of Health and Welfare nor Molina Medicare Solutions were adequately prepared when Idaho switched to a new processing system, managed by Molina, last June.
The report said an estimated $2 million sent to Medicaid providers last year to keep them in business may never be recovered because some of the providers have since closed their doors.
The 2011 County Health Rankings is described by its authors as the most comprehensive report of its kind to rank the overall health of nearly every county in all 50 states.
"The County Health Rankings provide an interesting snapshot of the health of people in the counties we serve," said Cindy Trail, deputy director of the Central District Health Department, which serves Ada, Boise, Elmore and Valley counties.
Ada County came in fifth of the 42 Idaho counties ranked, though Ada came in last when it came to its physical environment, primarily because of unhealthy air quality and a perceived lack of recreational facilities.
According to this year's rankings, the five healthiest counties in Idaho are Madison, Latah, Franklin, Blaine and Ada. Poorest health, starting with least healthy were: Lewis, Shoshone, Butte, Gooding and Payette.
"We view the findings as broad measures of health issues and we use them to help map strategies for improving the health of people in our counties," said Trail.
Boise Weekly readers have spoken on glass recycling. The overwhelmingly majority would like to have curbside glass recycling and most respondents would like to pay less than $4.99 monthly for the service.
First a disclaimer: our polling was completely unscientific, extremely informal and polled only readers at boiseweekly.com. Our poll determined that 93 percent of respondents would use a curbside glass recycling program if one was offered. More than half—59 percent—of respondents answered they'd be willing to pay up to $4.99 each month for the service, 28 percent were willing to pay between $5 and $9.99 monthly, and 13 percent would shell out between $10 and $13.00 monthly.
According to Public Works Commission Division Chief Paul Woods, official polling numbers indicated that 61 percent of Boiseans want curbside glass recycling. Though plans are far from solidified, Woods is working with Allied Waste to craft a curbside glass plan with a voluntary monthly fee of approximately $9.50.
On March 26, a Libyan woman charged into the Rixos Hotel restaurant in Tripoli and told journalists there that she had been raped and assaulted by Libyan troops.
Read more about it at globalpost.com.
The Idaho Senate passed House Bill 260 on a 27-8 vote today, cutting $34.6 million in state general funds from Medicaid programs, which when added to missing federally matched dollars, will undercut Medicaid by $108 million.
Among other things, the measure will reduce psycho social rehabilitation for adults with mental disabilities and reduce or eliminate dental and chiropractic care for adult clients. Critics argued that the reduced funding will result in the elimination of hundreds of jobs currently held by Medicaid caregivers.
Here’s a sampling of today’s debate:
Republican Sen. John McGee: "Providing jobs is not the goal of the Medicaid program.”
Democratic Sen. Les Bock: “Why do we choose to shoot ourselves in the foot when we don’t have to?”
Republican Sen. Patti Anne Lodge: “We didn’t take a sledgehammer (to Medicaid), we took a little paring knife.”
Democratic Sen. Dan Schmidt: “This is like saving money on your car by not changing your oil.”
Republican Sen. Joyce Broadsword: “Idaho needs to change from offering Cadillac Medicaid benefits to Chevy benefits.”
The measure now heads to Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter, who is expected to sign the bill into law.
In a legislative session packed with drama, the Idaho Senate takes up one of its last controversial issues on Monday: a bill that would slash $35 million dollars from state funding of Health and Welfare's Medicaid programs.
In fact, the $35 million dollar cut would grow exponentially to $108 million dollars because Idaho would lose significant federal matching funds. Supporters have called the cuts necessary in the wake of a major economic downturn. Opponents have called the measure everything from "short-sighted" to "cruel and heartless."
The bill would cut psychosocial rehabilitation programs that serve adults with severe mental disabilities. The measure would also see cuts to dental, chiropractic and vision care for some adults. At the height of the Statehouse debate, BW visited with Chris, a young adult male who said he'd rather have PSR services than food.
While Idaho saw a string of legal challenges to the four ConocoPhillips mega-loads Montana courtrooms have been relatively quiet on the issue. That's about to change, as the National Wildlife Federation prepares a lawsuit against the Montana Department of Transportation in order to stop more than 200 Exxon/Mobil mega-loads, which are bound for the Kearl Oil Sands Project in Alberta, Canada.
A spokesman for the NWF told the Missoulian newspaper that his group will be joined by other intervenors to challenge the Montana DOT's lack of accountability for environmental impacts allegedly caused by the massive loads.
"You're going to see a collection of wide interests [filing suit], probably from local governments in Montana to conservation groups to landowner groups," said Tony Iallonardo, senior communication manager for the National Wildlife Federation.
Meanwhile Exxon's "test" mega-load, originally scheduled to move from the Port of Lewiston across U.S. Highway 12 in north central Idaho has been delayed a week. The Idaho Transportation Department said that Exxon requested the delay in order to give additional training to flaggers and pilot car drivers. Exxon proposed moving more than 200 loads across U.S. 12 but the oil giant said it is now reconfiguring 30 of the loads into 60 smaller shipments that could move on an alternative route.
With either option, however, the loads would be required to move through Montana before heading north of the border.
Spring break is not going as planned as hundreds of passengers have been stranded in Boise and across the Western United States.
Alaska Airlines and its Horizon Air affiliate grounded dozens of flights in the wake of a massive failure of its computer systems.
More than 60 flights had been canceled by midday, six hours after the outage began. Alaska/Horizon is promising to rebook passengers without a fee.
Horizon had to reshuffle Boise passengers bound for Portland and Seattle today. Not all flights were canceled, and an airline spokesman urged travelers to check directly with Alaska/Horizon before heading to the airport.