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Medical Marijuana Bill Advances; Similar Bill Failed Last Year

Joyce Russell/IPR
Sally Gaer of West Des Moines and Marie La France of Des Moines. Gaer's daughter Margaret and La France's son Quincy suffer from epilepsy. Both have been active advocating for medical marijuana in Iowa

Patients and their advocates made a return trip to the Iowa Capitol Wednesday, arguing once again for the legalization of medical marijuana in Iowa. 

A new bill is under consideration in the House to regulate the growing, manufacturing, and distribution  of cannabis oil.  

This is a working vehicle. -Rep. Jared Klein

Earlier legislation is about to expire.   It allows epilepsy patients to travel out of state to acquire the drug, which has created numerous obstacles.  

Activists want the greater access that would come with growing and distributing it here.   

Multiple sclerosis patient Karrie Anderson of Grimes has tried six different drugs in six years.

“I want to stop taking gabapentin, I want to stop taking baclofen,” Grimes said. 

Iowa patients have had good results from using cannabis oil acquired out of state or online.

Grimes describes taking medical marijuana acquired during a trip to Colorado.

“It was a hard choice for me,” she said, saying she has never used illegal recreational drugs.   “I can tell you the first time I took it I slept through the night for the first time in six and a half years.” 

Sally Gaer was one of the activists behind the passage of Iowa’s current medical marijuana law.   Her daughter Margaret who has epilepsy has also benefited from medical cannabis.

“Her seizures have decreased and her weight has dropped by 30 pounds,” Gaer said.  “Her alertness has increased and she sleeps all night.”

All three members of a bipartisan panel signed off on the bill, but the chairman implied changes are likely.

“This is a working vehicle,” said Rep. Jared Klein (R-Keota).    “This is not a set in stone thing.”

The bill's first draft calls on the University of Iowa's School of Medicine to recommend a list of debilitating medical conditions for which cannabis oil could be prescribed and the legislature would have to approve the list.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Most lobbying groups are calling themselves undecided on the bill.  The Iowa Medical Society opposes it.  

“We would ask that you continue to keep the protections in law for prescribers so they don't have a duty to prescribe if they don’t feel comfortable doing so,” said the medical group’s lobbyist Dennis Tibben.

A bill to legalize the manufacture and distribution of medical marijuana in Iowa earlier passed the then Democratic-controlled Iowa Senate but failed to pass  the House.

Twenty-eight states and the District of Columbia now have medical marijuana programs.   

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