Pharmacy board declines to reclassify marijuana in Iowa

I missed this story earlier in the week, but caught it at the Huffington Post on Friday:

The Iowa Board of Pharmacy sidestepped a court ruling this week, which had ordered it to consider whether the state should reclassify marijuana as having medical value. […]

The effort to reclassify marijuana in Iowa is led by the American Civil Liberties Union and local medical marijuana users. […]

The pharmacy board was fully informed by assistant attorney general and counsel to the board Scott Galenbeck of its job. “Judge Novak’s ruling states,” Galenbeck read to the board, “‘The board must determine whether the evidence presented by petitioner is sufficient to support a finding that marijuana has accepted medical use in the United States and does not lack accepted safety for use in treatment under medical supervision.’ A couple sentences before that the judge stated if the board believes that evidence presented by petitioner was insufficient to support such a finding it should have stated such in its order.”

The board had previously rejected the ACLU effort. The civil liberties group appealed to the district court, setting up this week’s rematch.

Yet the Iowa board, instead of asking whether it has “accepted medical use in the United States,” asked whether Iowa should approve of it, which is not a question for the board but for the Iowa legislature.

A bill to legalize the medical use of marijuana was introduced in the Iowa Senate this year. More details about that are after the jump.

It’s too bad that the Iowa Board of Pharmacy couldn’t follow a judge’s straightforward instructions. Perhaps some members feared giving political cover to advocates for legalizing medical marijuana.

State Senator Joe Bolkcom introduced a bill in March “creating the medical marijuana Act including the creation of compassion centers, and providing for civil and criminal penalties and fees.” (Here is the full text.) A subcommittee of the Senate Human Resources Committee held a hearing on the issue, but the bill went no further, as Bolkcom agreed that it needed more work and tighter controls. Click here for a report with some video footage from that hearing.

Since more than a dozen states have legalized medical marijuana, there should be model statutes that could be adapted to Iowa without much trouble.

Incidentally, fellow subcommittee member Senator Merlin Bartz asserted that the Iowa Senate unanimously approved a medical marijuana bill in 1993, but the idea stalled in the Iowa House. That was surprising news for me, but I wasn’t living in Iowa in 1993. Does anyone else remember this happening?

This is a classic example of an issue where politicians often lag behind public opinion, and that may be the case in Iowa. The Iowa Medical Marijuana Society’s blog alluded to a “recent KCCI poll” showing that 53 percent of Iowans support legalized medical marijuana, with 9 percent undecided. However, I could not find any link containing details about that poll or when it was taken.

It’s hard to see a compelling argument for continuing to prohibit the medical use of marijuana. Doctors are already able to prescribe drugs that are more addictive and have more damaging side effects.

Add this to your list of common-sense reforms that die quietly in subcommittees of the Iowa legislature.

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