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MEDICAL MARIJUANA

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Legalizing marijuana to treat medical conditions has gotten a lot of attention in the disability community.  Currently, Iowa law allows people with a severe form of epilepsy to use the oil that comes from medical cannabis to treat seizures, but they have no legal way of getting it. Advocates for the use of medical cannabis want to change Iowa law to expand the conditions that can qualify for use, and allow for the legal purchase of the oil (called cannabidiol) from authorized Iowa distributors. 

Advocates have presented the science behind the cannabidiol to several legislative committees, saying it has been used to successfully treat returning veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, individuals with MS, and people who are in pain because of terminal cancer, ulcerative colitis, and other diseases.  Advocates held ralies, gave impassioned testimony, and pulled out all the stops to attempt to get legislation passed.  Ultimately all efforts failed, but advocates vow to return next year.

In the final week of session, Rep. Zach Nunn of Bondurant attempted to pass a compromise (amendment H-8290) that would have expanded who could use the cannabis oil, but still did not allow its purchase in Iowa.  While opportunities would exist to partner with other states who would produce the oil (Minnesota was mentioned), access was still a barrier.  In the end, that was one of the reasons that many supporters ended up opposing the legislation. It failed 31-63.

The day before session ended, Rep. Bob Kressig of Cedar Falls tried a little-used rule that would allow legislators to vote on a bill that had not yet passed out of committee. This "Hail Mary" effort to try to revive the issue in the final days of session failed 44-54.  

Many thought this was the year for expansion of Iowa's law, after a high-profile Republican sponsored legislation. Rep. Peter Cownie of West Des Moines ultimately didn't have the votes to pass the bill. The Iowa Senate passed a bill last year 26-19, and it's chief advocate Sen. Joe Bolkcom of Iowa City has vowed to continue this fight. You can see a list of how each legislator voted on these bills (House & Senate) here.

According to an Des Moines Register poll, 78% of Iowans support the use of cannabis for medical purposes.  Opponents say they are fearful of the quality of the product, since its purity is not regulated as other medicines, and suggest waiting until the FDA finishes its clinical trials and makes a decision on whether to allow it to be prescribed as any other medicine. Supporters say people who are suffering need help now.  You can weigh in on your thoughts by contacting your legislators this summer and letting them know what you think!