Iowa Families and Advocates Say Marijuana Debate Halted By Pharmacy Board

The state-wide debate for medical marijuana has hit a brick wall, leaving parents of children with chronic diseases without an option.

A recent unanimous vote by the Iowa Pharmacy Board has left little room for change in what's been an ongoing debate for decades.

Siouxland News Reporter Beairshelle Edmé spoke with some advocates who say the Board is just tip-toeing around the issue.

For some children with severe seizures from diseases like epilepsy or Dravet Syndrome marijuana has been a miracle drug.

Iowa parents want to see the substance legalized for medical use.

But the board ruled it "has no authority to authorize growing marijuana, let alone establish a program for licensure and regulation of producers and distributors," as decreed last Wednesday.

Advocate Carl Olsen disagrees.

"The code says they have to participate; it doesn't say that they don't have to participate so they're misinterpreting the law and trying to fool people into thinking that they have no responsibility," said Olsen.

For decades, Olsen has led the charge to reclassify the drug and believes placing these decisions back in the hands of state lawmakers is counterproductive.

A sufferer of severe anxiety, he says the drug has a medical use and need statewide.

"It gave me an interest in natural organic substances and I just think it turned my life around and I-- when I hear people tell me it has benefits for them I just believe that because it does," said the advocate.

But not all lawmakers agree.

One Iowa native, who went on to run New Mexico's medical marijuana program, told the board misconceptions cloud the debate.

"It is no longer credible to state that there are no medical uses for cannabis," said Dr. Steven Jenison. "There is definite benefit in term of relief of nausea and vomiting associated with cancer chemo therapy a lot of relief for people who have Multiple Sclerosis in terms for their pain and spasticity, benefits of people with HIV/AIDS who have painful peripheral neuropathy, people with Epilepsy, people with Glaucoma."

Unlike in New Mexico, marijuana remains a Schedule 1 drug in Iowa, authorized only for research.

But advocates say if the drug is moved to schedule 2, it'll be accepted for medical use. and help patients of several chronic disease finally find a cure.

Iowa City's State Senator Joe Bolkcom recently sponsored a bill for reclassification, but it was rejected by the legislature.

The next time legislators could consider a new law would be 2015.

If you have a story you want to tell or an incident you think needs to be investigated, our reporter Beairshelle Edmé wants to hear about it. OR

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