Ad-Express and Daily Iowegian, Centerville, IA

March 18, 2014

Time for medical cannabis

By Sen. Joe Bolkcom
The Daily Iowegian

---- — Thousands of Iowans are needlessly suffering because Iowa laws keep them from using medicine available in many other states

I’ve met many of them. They are all ages, from all walks of life, and have all sorts of political and religious beliefs. They — or their children — suffer daily from epilepsy, cancer, PTSD, HIV, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injuries and other serious conditions.

Medical cannabis could ease their suffering.

Iowa doctors can’t prescribe this medicine and it is illegal to Iowans to possess medical cannabis. As a substitute, Iowans instead turn to some of the most powerful and addictive narcotic drugs known to medicine. Those drugs are legal, but they often have extremely negative side-effects and often don’t work as well as medical cannabis.

It is cruel to deny someone the medicine they need.

I have heard many stories from Iowans that have left the state or are planning to leave to get the medicine they need. I have talked with two Iraq War veterans, one has left and another is leaving Iowa soon so he can also legally access the medicine that best manages his PTSD. Another Iowa family has split up there family so their daughter’s epilepsy can be treated with medical cannabis in Colorado.

Twenty states already have medical cannabis programs and 14 more are considering legislation. What’s wrong with Iowa?

In 2010, the Iowa Pharmacy Board concluded that cannabis has medical benefits and that the best way to help patients is to create a program modeled after New Mexico’s respected medical cannabis initiative.

That was four years ago. Iowans like to think of ourselves as compassionate people, but we continue to deny suffering people the medicine the need. We can do better.

As a member of the Iowa Senate, I’ve met with Republican and Democratic legislators in both the House and Senate. We are making progress. It helps that we can learn from the lessons learned from other states.

The legislation (SF 2215) we are working on sets out a strictly controlled program that specifies a set of debilitating conditions, requires a doctor’s prescription, and will be administered by a medical doctor at the Iowa Department of Public Health. The state of Iowa would license non-profit dispensaries and a production facility. The licensing fees would cover the costs.

A majority of Iowans are ready to move forward. The roadblocks are fear and lack of information on the part of the Legislature and Gov. Terry Branstad. However, the recent efforts by patients and their families have been extraordinarily effective. The Legislature could approve medical cannabis as early as 2015 in the first legislative session after this fall’s election.

It’s great that the ice is cracking in the Iowa House and Senate, but Gov. Branstad is still in the deep freeze. He was first elected to state office in 1973. After years of using the “war on drugs” to score partisan politics, is Gov. Branstad even capable of acknowledging the facts on this issue?

For the sake of Iowans seeking relief from serious medical conditions, I hope so. Gov. Branstad is running for another four year term, and he’s hinted he might run for another four years after that.

How much longer are Iowa voters like you and I going to make our friends and neighbors wait for the medicine they need?

Joe Bolkcom

State Senator

Joe.bolkcom@legis.iowa.gov

(319) 337-6280