Medical marijuana will be topic for public hearings

The Iowa Board of Pharmacy on Tuesday refused to reclassify marijuana as a medication doctors can prescribe, but voted to hold public hearings on the issue.

A bill introduced last year in the Iowa Senate would have allowed not-for-profit facilities called “compassion centers” to acquire, cultivate and deliver marijuana and related supplies to qualifying patients. The bill never got out of subcommittee, but its sponsor, Sen. Joe Bolkcom, said Tuesday that the Legislature could approve some sort of legalization.

The Iowa City Democrat applauded the plan to hold statewide hearings. “Like with any issue, there’s a certain education process that needs to go on,” he said.

Sen. Merlin Bartz, a Grafton Republican who served on the subcommittee, opposed Bolkcom’s bill because he thought it offered too few controls. However, Bartz said he believes more legislators would support a medical-marijuana bill with the same kinds of tight regulations already in place on prescription painkillers and other addictive drugs.

When the Iowa Board of Pharmacy announces dates and locations for these public hearings, I will include them on my event calendars at Bleeding Heartland.

Iowa should not have to reinvent the wheel on medical marijuana. Presumably our legislators could adapt model language from statutes approved elsewhere.

Tony Leys of the Des Moines Register reported that the Board of Pharmacy’s resolution denying the request to reclassify marijuana also attacked Carl Olsen, who heads Iowans for Medical Marijuana. It cited Olsen’s various arrests on marijuana-related charges during the 1970s and 1980s.

Des Moines Register columnist Marc Hansen described the Board of Pharmacy’s reaction to Olsen as “overblown.” What bothers me is that board members seem to think Olsen’s personal history is relevant to the issue of whether marijuana should be classified as a drug so dangerous that Iowa doctors cannot prescribe it.

The Board of Pharmacy’s actions on this matter should not be influenced by members’ opinions about Olsen or his motives. Their job is to evaluate the evidence on whether marijuana has valid medical uses. Under certain circumstances, Iowa doctors already can prescribe narcotics that are more addictive than marijuana and have more harmful side effects.

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