Push for safe, legal medicinal cannabis likely in 14 Iowa Legislature.

Push for safe, legal medicinal cannabis likely in 14 Iowa Legislature.

Published on 11/24/13

Marijuana Legalization Justice

Eric Risberg, Associated Press file


CEDAR RAPIDS | A mother, an Iraq War veteran and the former director of New Mexico’s medical marijuana program made the case for changes in state law to allow Iowans with certain health conditions to seek relief through medicinal marijuana.

The public information meeting in Iowa City Tuesday night, which attracted about 100 people, wasn’t about legalizing marijuana, the war on drugs or sentencing reform, said state Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, who co-sponsored the meeting with the ACLU-Iowa.

It was, he said, about “safe, legal and controlled access” to marijuana for medicinal use for people like Marine Corps veteran Logan Edwards.

“It’s a shame that I have to go outlaw to use a drug that works for me,” said the Iraq War veteran from Davenport, who turned to treating PTSD and related symptom with marijuana after numerous prescription drugs either failed to help or made his conditions worse. “I don’t like being an outlaw in a country that I fought for.”

Among the audience were at least one half dozen state legislators who are likely to see proposals to make medicinal cannabis available under tightly controlled circumstances.

Bolkcom plans to propose reclassifying marijuana from Schedule I, which means it has no medicinal benefit, to Schedule II.

He also plans to propose a New Mexico-like program to make medical cannabis available to people whose doctors have vouched for their medical condition and the failure of other treatments and their applications have been reviewed by medical professionals.

In New Mexico, with a population about two-thirds of Iowa’s, 9,950 residents are enrolled in its strictly controlled medical marijuana program, according to Iowa native Dr. Steve Jenison, the former director of the program. Nearly 4,300 are using cannabis to treat PTSD and another 2,800 use it for chronic pain.

Maria La France of Des Moines shared the challenges she and her husband face in treating their son who has suffered from epileptic seizures and other medical problems since he was five months old.

“You could probably kill an elephant with all the drugs he has tried,” the former Cedar Rapids resident said. “Medical marijuana shows promise. It sounds like a dream compared to prescription medications.”

Like Edwards, La France said she has the option of moving to one of 20 states that allow the use of medical cannabis. But she doesn’t want to leave.

“Why can’t I get this medication for my son in my state?” La France said.

Efforts to make medical marijuana available likely will face an uphill battle in the Legislature. If approved by lawmakers, sponsored will have to convince a skeptical Gov. Terry Branstad to sign it.

Without saying he will veto such legislation, Branstad “does not support efforts to legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes,” according to his spokesman.

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