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Medical Marijuana Cruises through Iowa Senate
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medical marijuana

Summary: The Iowa Senate easily passed a bill that would allow for medical marijuana to be legal in the state but must now face the House.

The Iowa Senate had no problem passing a bill legalizing medical marijuana but it is not expected to receive such support in the House. The bill would allow the use of marijuana for a wide range of medical treatments for conditions such as cancer to post-traumatic stress disorder.

  
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The bill, Senate File 506, was passed by a whopping 45-5 vote. If the bill passes completely, it would give patients the ability to obtain a medical cannabis registration card after first getting written approval from a doctor. The card would allow the patient to then visit a dispensary in Iowa to obtain the drug. The production and distribution of marijuana for medical purposes would be legalized in the state and reclassify the weed as legal under state law.

Senator Thomas Greene, a pharmacist, acted as the bill’s floor manager. He urged support for the bill, explaining how many Iowans face the decision of obtaining marijuana illegally or moving to another state where it is legal. They estimate over 12,000 of the state’s citizens have medical conditions that would benefit with the treatment of marijuana. Greene said, “We want Iowans to know we care about them here.”

Senator Joe Bolkcom recounted stories from those that lobbied legislators to support the bill, some of who has since passed away. Senator Charles Schneider joined in support, saying it would be easier if the federal government legalized it but since they haven’t, each state has to figure out their own laws to address the issue. He added, “In the end, I think this bill strikes the right balance.” The bill would not allow the smoking of marijuana or for people to buy plant material to be taken home and smoked.

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Medical conditions that have been shown benefit from marijuana as a treatment and that will be included in the bill as being eligible are: cancer, epilepsy, AIDS or HIV, multiple sclerosis, glaucoma, post-traumatic stress disorder, hepatitis C, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Chron’s disease or ulcerative colitis, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, Tourette’s syndrome, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, muscular dystrophy, Huntington’s disease, intractable pain, complex regional pain syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, any terminal disease subject to certain conditions, and any other chronic or debilitating disease or medical condition, including those approved by state officials.

The biggest obstacle the bill faces now is approval from the House. Linda Upmeyer, the House Speaker, has mentioned that she is not opposed to allowing marijuana to be grown in Iowa or distributed as a medicinal product. Upmeyer and other members are concerned with the economic viability plus any implications under federal law. There is still a bill in the House that would extend the sunset date of the current cannabis oil program and make Epidiolex, a cannabis-based product, available upon its approval by the Food and Drug Administration.



Rep. Jarad Klein has helped to lead the drafting of medical marijuana legislation in the House. He agrees with Upmeyer, explaining that House Republicans are more in favor of a limited approach compared to the bill that just went through the Senate. Klein wants to avoid a minimally regulated system that allows anyone to claim an illness for access to medical marijuana.

Senator Brad Zaun said, “A lot of people say, ‘Why is this taking so long?’ Well, the reason why is education. A lot of us have learned about the benefits of cannabis. I beg our House colleagues to do the right thing.”

Current law in Iowa allows those that suffer from epilepsy to use cannabis oil. However, it is illegal to manufacture or distribute the oil and federal law prohibits the transportation of it across state lines. So, in a sense, it is illegal for anyone to obtain the oil. The law, which was enacted in 2014, will expire in July.

Do you think the federal government should allow for medical marijuana to be legal? Tell us in the comments below.

To learn more about medical marijuana laws, read these articles:

Photo: commons.wikimedia.org



 

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