The Iowa Senate voted 26-19 yesterday in support of a compassionate and comprehensive medical marijuana proposal! The bill now crosses over to the House of Representatives for debate.
The program approved by the Senate would allow Iowans who suffer from a variety of debilitating conditions to use and safely access medical marijuana with their doctors’ recommendations. The bill also requires the state to register in-state businesses to produce and distribute medical marijuana to qualified patients. This is a huge step forward, but for Iowa patients to receive the protections they deserve, the bill must first survive the House and then the governor.
After securing approval from the Iowa Senate Ways and Means Committee, the Medical Cannabis Act is primed for a floor vote by the full Senate. This vote could happen any day now, so it’s important for Iowa residents to email your Senator TODAYand ask her or him to vote “yes” on the Medical Cannabis Act when it comes to the floor.
The Medical Cannabis Act, or S.F. 484, makes significant improvements to the ineffective CBD-only law that was enacted last year in an effort to bring relief to individuals suffering from intractable epilepsy. That law has failed to help even the small subset of potential medical cannabis patients that it was specifically intended to help, making passage of the Medical Cannabis Act necessary.
Should the Medical Cannabis Act become law, individuals suffering from cancer, PTSD, intractable epilepsy, MS, and other debilitating conditions will be able to legally use and obtain their medicine within Iowa’s borders — but it must pass the Senate first.
A board subcommittee initially recommended that the entire board consider reclassifying the substance from a Schedule I drug to a Schedule II drug. The recommendation was based on marijuana’s use for medical purposes, bolstered by a new law in Iowa that made the use of CBD oil, which is derived from the marijuana plant, legal for the treatment of children with epilepsy.
An Iowa Pharmacy Board member and pharmacist from Monona, Edward Maier, read the subcommittee’s recommendation:
“While the board believes that marijuana has a high potential for abuse, in 2014 the Iowa General Assembly passed the Medical Cannabinoid Act. The act permits the use of cannanbidiol for patients suffering from intractable epilepsy. The passage of this act is an affirmative recognition by the Iowa General Assembly that there is a medical use for marijuana. Continued placement for marijuana in Schedule I is not consistent with that act,” Maier said, reading directly from the recommendation.
Maier also emphasized that even if the Iowa Pharmacy Board decided to reclassify marijuana as a Schedule II substance, the decision would not necessarily mean the de facto implementation of a medical marijuana law in Iowa. The move would also necessitate legislative and regulatory action.
In the end, however, the entire board voted unanimously to delay the decision until they are scheduled to meet again the first week of January.
“We’re in a bit of a predicament,” board Chairman Edward Maier told several dozen people who gathered for the Des Moines hearing, noting that Iowa law currently classifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug.
A similar proposal failed to gain traction in 2009 when the board recommended that state legislators reclassify marijuana as a Schedule II drug, which would make the substance legal with a physician’s recommendation.
Edward Hertko, a retired Des Moines physician and longtime proponent for making marijuana legal, said opponents have falsely characterized marijuana as addictive and as a gateway to harder drugs.
“Its hazards pale when compared with alcohol and tobacco,” he told the pharmacy board. “In fact, marijuana is less deadly than sugar, which causes thousands of deaths each year from obesity and diabetes,” he said.
In addition, Lori Tassin, a cancer patient also from Des Moines, said she believes the substance can shrink tumors and provide other medical benefits.
“It should be my choice,” she told the board. “It should be between my doctor and me.”
The entire Iowa Board of Pharmacy will further discuss the issue Wednesday. Moreover, Maier, a Mapleton pharmacist, noted that the board does not have the authority to make medical marijuana legal. However, he did state that the board could advise Iowa state legislators on the issue.
As reported by Iowa Watchdog, in May, Governor Terry Branstad signed into law the Medical Cannabidiol Act. The law allows for residents of Iowa to possess small amounts of cannabidiol if a neurologist certifies that the non-psychoactive oil derived from marijuana plants is necessary for the treatment of a child with intractable epilepsy.
On Tuesday, the Administrative Rules Review Committee of the Iowa State Legislature gave final approval to the procedures by which the Iowa Department of Public Health will address the new law.
Beginning on January 30, 2015, after filing the appropriate paperwork and being approved by IDPH, a parent or primary caregiver of a child diagnosed with epilepsy will be able to receive a specific form of identification that will allow them to possess up to 32 ounces of cannabidiol.
They will not, however, be able to obtain the actual oil. In fact, cannabidiol will remain illegal to produce or sell in the state of Iowa. Moreover, in Colorado and Oregon, the states where the oil is legal, it is illegal to sell to nonresidents. Therefore, even if an approved resident from Iowa were able to buy the oil in one of the states where it is legal, transporting the substance across state lines remains a federal crime.
“That’s the reality of the situation,” Deborah Thompson, policy advisor for IDPH, told Iowa Watchdog. “There are still some very fundamental barriers to parents getting the oil.”
According to state Rep. Rob Taylor, R-West Des Moines:
“It was a very limited bill. All it did was give citizens of Iowa who possess and are registered with the state safe harbor under Iowa state law. Meaning we wouldn’t prosecute them if they have cannabidiol,” Taylor said.
When asked what purpose it served to create an approval process of a substance that Iowans will not be allowed to legally obtain, Taylor stated, “It’s one more tool in their toolbox for families dealing with a very, very disturbing disorder.”