Iowa Senate approves cannabis oil bill

Yesterday the Iowa Senate approved by 36 votes to 12 a bill to legalize the use of medical cannabis oil for treating certain seizure conditions. You can read the full text of Senate File 2360 here. After the jump I’ve posted State Senator Joe Bolkcom’s floor statements in support of the bill, which summarize its key points and limited scope. An Iowa Senate Democratic research staffer provided a more detailed analysis of the bill here (pdf).

The roll call in the Senate Journal shows that all 26 Iowa Senate Democrats voted for the cannabis oil bill, joined by the following ten Republicans: Mike Breitbach, Mark Chelgren, Minority Leader Bill Dix, Joni Ernst, Hubert Houser, David Johnson, Tim Kapucian, Charles Schneider, Amy Sinclair, and Brad Zaun. The twelve Republicans who voted no were Bill Anderson, Jerry Behn, Rick Bertrand, Nancy Boettger, Jake Chapman, Randy Feenstra, Julian Garrett, Sandy Greiner, Dennis Guth, Ken Rozenboom, Roby Smith, and Jack Whitver. Republicans Mark Segebart and Dan Zumbach were absent.

During the floor debate, several Republicans warned that passing the bill would send the wrong message to teenagers, leading to more recreational use of marijuana. That’s hard to fathom, since the bill does not legalize smoking marijuana, even for terminally or chronically ill Iowans who could benefit from medical cannabis in that form.

Key Iowa House Republicans and Governor Terry Branstad have made clear that for now, they would consider only a bill to allow access to medical cannabis oil. I hope a study committee on broader use of medical marijuana will go forward. Senate File 2360 is a step in the right direction and will give families like this one options other than moving to Colorado. However, the bill leaves out too many suffering people.

P.S.- A sign of how far the political ground has shifted in the medical marijuana debate: Joni Ernst and Brad Zaun are in fiercely competitive GOP primaries (for U.S. Senate and IA-03, respectively). Both of them voted for this bill.

From the Iowa Senate Democrats blog:

April 24, 2014

Opening and closing statements by Senator Joe Bolkcom of Iowa City, sponsor of Senate File 2360, which makes medical cannabis oil available for the treatment of epilepsy

The legislation before us is a product of the best bi-partisan work responding to the pleas of our constituents who have petitioned their government to help them end the suffering and negative quality of life most of us cannot imagine.

We have met these families the moms, dads and kids, we have heard the heart breaking stories about young innocent kids experiencing intractable epilepsy with uncontrolled seizures and we have learned about how the best treatments have failed.

This legislation responds to these stories in a compassionate Iowa way.

Only a few hundred Iowans will be directly, personally affected by Senate File 2360.

However, for those Iowans, this legislation could be a life or death issue.

What does the bill do?

It makes it legal for certain Iowans with intractable epilepsy, under the care and recommendation of a neurologist, to obtain a state-issued card by the IDPH, that makes it legal for them to possess a specific medicine, non-intoxicating cannabis oil, in the state of Iowa.

The bill also allows Iowans who have moved to other states to get their medicine to come home and visit loved ones without fear of arrest and prosecution.

That’s what the bill does.  That’s all the bill does.

You still have to go out of state to get the oil.  But, when you return to your home in Iowa, you can use it without being arrested, without being fined, without being sent to prison, without losing your job, without losing your home and without losing your children.

This legislation is before us today thanks to the work of Iowa parents.

The parents of some of those couple hundred Iowans that will directly affected by this legislation.

These are parents of children with intractable epilepsy.  They are parents of children whose seizures are so severe that they may be at risk of dying at any time.

In other states, states with medical cannabis laws, cannabis oil has been shown to reduce the number of seizures these people have.

Reduce the seizures, and you reduce the risk of dying.

The Selmeski family has moved from Iowa to Colorado to help their daughter, Maggie.  Thanks to cannabis oil, they have seen a sharp reduction in the number of seizures Maggie has.

Just to be clear, families facing such extreme medical challenges have been doctored by the best and have had all the FDA approved AND non-approved drugs.

These drugs have severe risks and severe and negative side effects.  Non-intoxicating cannabis oil comes with comparatively few risks and offers significant benefits.

That’s why these Iowa parents want access to this medicine.

And that’s why you should vote yes today on Senate File 2360.

This bill is a product of a bipartisan working group.

Thank Senator Schneider for his steady advocacy and leadership. Senator Dix. Senator McCoy, Sen. Courtney, Sen. Dotzler and Hatch.

Rep Baudler, Forbes and Rob Taylor.

We have had a lot of input from many stakeholders. Patients, Iowa Epilepsy Association, IMS, Iowa Department of Public Safty, Iowa’s Sheriffs and Deputies, The Governors office,

END OF OPENING

CLOSING

In my opening statement, I pointed out that this legislation is before us due to the extraordinary  efforts of a handful of Iowa parents.

Many of you have met the parents I’m talking about.

Despite the medical challenges these Iowa moms and dads face every day-and I’m thinking especially of Maria LaFrance and Sally and steve Gaer

these Iowa parents opened up their homes, and shared their personal struggles with the news media and, through those news stories, with millions of Iowans.

They did that because they had no other choice to help their children.

So, today, I’m asking the Iowa Senate to respond to the urgent need of these parents and vote yes for Senate File 2360.

It is true that approving this legislation would be an important first step forward.

It would be Iowa’s first step forward toward providing responsible, regulated, limited access to medical cannabis to suffering people in our state.

It would be a first step forward for the thousands of suffering Iowans who could be helped by medical cannabis.

Iowans suffering from diseases which the Iowa Board of Pharmacy said in 2010 can be helped by medical cannabis: MS, Parkinson’s, arthritis, neurodegenerative disorders, pain relief, cancer, glaucoma, depression and PTSD.

Iowans who, if they lived in 20 other states, would have legal access to medicines which would improve their lives or, at least, make their deaths less painful.

Today, let’s focus on this first step forward.

Today, let’s help these families who are in desperate need.

Let’s show Iowans that we are listening to the vast majority of Iowans who want their families, friends and neighbors to have access to medicine that can help them.

Thank Senator Schneider for his steady advocacy and leadership. Senator Dix. Senator McCoy, Sen. Courtney, Sen. Dotzler and Hatch.

Rep Baudler, Forbes and Rob Taylor.

I think this legislation will pass today, but just passing is not enough.

We need a large, bipartisan majority.

We need that big bipartisan majority TODAY to encourage the Iowa House and Governor Branstad to take this first compassionate step forward to help suffering Iowans.

Earlier this spring, Utah passed essentially the same legislation on March 13.

That legislation was named for 6-year-old Charlee Nelson, one of 50 Utah children on the waiting list for nonintoxicating cannabis oil.

She died on March 15, two days after the legislation was approved.

Iowa Democrats and Republicans can prevent that from happening by working together, today, to pass Senate File 2360.

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