Pharmacy Board unanimously recommends legalizing medical marijuana

The Iowa Board of Pharmacy voted 6-0 today to recommend that Iowa legislators reclassify marijuana from a Schedule I narcotic to a Schedule II narcotic. Schedule II drugs have a "currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States."

In April 2009, a Polk County judge instructed the Iowa Board of Pharmacy to examine evidence on possible medical uses for marijuana. Last summer the board declined to reclassify marijuana in Iowa but ordered public hearings on the subject.

The Iowa legislature's "funnel" deadline passed last Friday with no action on a bill to legalize medical marijuana, meaning the issue is dead for the 2010 session. Leadership can bring up new bills after the funnel deadline, but I would be surprised if House and Senate leaders used that prerogative to move a medical marijuana bill forward during a shortened legislative session.

That said, lawmakers should not fear a political backlash if they do approve a bill legalizing marijuana for medical use in Iowa. In the latest Selzer and Co. statewide poll for the Des Moines Register, 64 percent of respondents supported "allowing medical marijuana," while only 33 percent opposed the idea. I was surprised by how little opinions on this issue varied by the respondents' age. Medical marijuana was supported by 67 percent of respondents 18-34, 67 percent of those aged 35-54, and 60 percent of those over 55. Younger Iowans were twice as likely as those over 55 to support legalizing marijuana for recreational use.

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