Spiker takes parting shot at Branstad over medical marijuana

A few days before he will formally step down as the Republican Party of Iowa’s leader, A.J. Spiker advocated legalizing medical marijuana in a guest editorial for the Sunday Des Moines Register. Excerpts from Spiker’s column are after the jump. Framing the case for medical cannabis in terms of personal freedom, Spiker rebuked Republicans who have been unwilling to acknowledge strong arguments for allowing doctors to prescribe the drug. While he didn’t name names, his points came across as a rebuttal to Governor Terry Branstad, who would rather drag his feet on this issue.

Spiker and Branstad have clashed repeatedly, and it’s an open secret that the governor hasn’t been happy with the Iowa GOP’s priorities or fundraising since Spiker took over from Matt Strawn in early 2012. It’s shrewd for Spiker to stake a claim for medical marijuana, a position that is increasingly popular, especially with younger voters. Now his last impression as state party chair will be as a forward-thinking leader, rather than the guy who sometimes seemed to care more about Ron Paul’s Liberty movement than about electing Republicans.  

Speaking of medical marijuana, the issue was the focus of last Friday’s edition of Iowa Public Television’s “Iowa Press” program. Steve Lukan, director of the governor’s Office of Drug Control Policy, appeared along with West Des Moines Mayor Steve Gaer and State Senator Joe Bolkcom, leading advocates for legalizing medical cannabis using the New Mexico model. The video and transcript are available here. I was disappointed to see Lukan basically repeat the same talking points throughout the program, without acknowledging that many legal drugs can also be abused and may have devastating side effects for patients. Branstad didn’t search for anyone with expertise in drug policy before offering the state’s top job in this area to Lukan.

Excerpts from A.J. Spiker’s column in the March 23 Sunday Des Moines Register: “It’s time to legalize medical marijuana.”

As we portray ourselves as the party that desires to give people more freedom, more autonomy, and more say in their lives, we’re faced with the need to reconcile that the way we’ve defined freedom when it comes to doctors and patients has not been one of consistency. Today both major parties continue to shun any attempt to seriously consider the medical uses that marijuana may serve. And hitting close to home for myself as chairman of the Republican Party of Iowa, even today a good portion of Republican leadership statewide and nationwide has refused to acknowledge the problem. […]

There is no wrong in admitting we’ve made a mistake. The wrong exists in knowing we’ve made a mistake and refusing to admit it.

Today I ask Republicans in Iowa and across the country to ask themselves to reconsider the facts before them and give more weight to the voices of doctors and patients than of political gurus and pollsters. […]

We champion the notion that the doctor/patient relationship is one of the most personal and sacred rights of all humans. […]

We base entire political campaigns on the idea that true freedom is being able to control your own life, especially the doctor you see and the treatment you receive. We ask in one breath, “Who is the government to tell us which doctor we can use?” But in the next breath we push for laws to tell a patient we’ve never met, with a disease we can’t even imagine, which treatment they can have and which they cannot. But that’s not the ideal our Republican Party should stand for. […]

I believe it is time for Republicans to take the initiative and make it clear we believe freedom must be upheld. Freedom must be the driving force behind our law, our legislation and our dealings with those looking for aid. It is time for Republicans to give freedom back to doctors, to patients and to those who know far better than the politicians which treatments they truly need.

  • Lukan

    Very weak. A former Republican state representative who needed a gig. WDM Mayor Steve Gaer, a rock ribbed Republican, is an effective advocate in favor of medical cannabis. God bless him and his family.  

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