Branstad, key Iowa House Republicans more open to medical cannabis

Governor Terry Branstad has opposed efforts to legalize marijuana for medical use in Iowa, but on Monday he he signaled that he is open to taking a small step forward this year.

[I]t looks like we could end up with something that’s very limited in focus, like as passed recently in Utah and Alabama,” Branstad said. “I’m certainly working with legislators to see if there’s a possibility to work something out on that before the legislature adjourns.”

The new Utah law allows extract in oil form, but not smoking marijuana to treat a medical condition. Along the same lines, James Q. Lynch reported stunning news: Iowa House Public Safety Committee Chair Clel Baudler is open to legalizing the use of medical cannabis, in oil form. After meeting with parents whose children suffer from seizure disorders, Baudler said, “These little kids are taking some drugs that are really hot […] So if we educate ourselves and possibly we can give them some relief, that’s a good thing.”

Last summer, Baudler bragged that he would wear as a “badge of honor” his designation as one of the country’s ten worst state legislators, according to the Marijuana Policy Project.

He and Iowa House Speaker Kraig Paulsen indicated that to have any chance of passing the Republican-controlled House, a bill to legalize the use of cannabis would have to exclude marijuana that can be smoked. That will disappoint Iowans suffering from cancer, severe pain, or debilitating chronic diseases like multiple sclerosis. Smoking marijuana can ease nausea and other symptoms in such patients. Speaking to Lynch, Baudler said people who want to use cannabis to treat conditions other than seizure disorders should “Move to Colorado.”

Even limited progress on this issue is welcome, but I hope Iowa lawmakers will move forward with a broader study of medical cannabis programs.

UPDATE: Iowa Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal is willing to help “move a limited bill on medical cannabis oil forward.” Senate Minority Leader Bill Dix is non-committal for now.  

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