We all need to come together to make medical cannabis work in Iowa

Advocate Quinn Symonds shares his perspective on some medical cannabis proposals recently introduced in the state legislature. Iowa’s very limited current law, which is unworkable even for families of those suffering from seizure disorders, expires in July. Efforts to expand it failed in the Iowa House last year. -promoted by desmoinesdem

I’ve been asked to talk about the medical cannabis bills. There are basically two sides to watch right now. There are several bills introduced by Democrats and bills introduced by two Republicans, Iowa House Public Safety Committee Chair Clel Baudler and Iowa Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Brad Zaun. I will be referring to Democratic State Senator Joe Bolkcom’s proposals. He has two out currently: a version of last year’s bill that failed to pass, and a “newer” version of the same bill. On the Republican side I will focus on Baudler’s bill. These bills aren’t exactly great: they are supposed to help patients, and neither would do much of that.

We can start off with House Study Bill 132 because its author (Baudler) is the chair of a committee. Consequently, it has the most chance to not collect dust. Let’s be perfectly clear: this is not a medical cannabis bill. It allows for Cannabidiol (CBD oil) and broadens its access. Cannabidiol is from the hemp or cannabis plant, but for CBD laws the THC threshold limit is three percent. Cannabidiol is extracted from the cannabis plant and this bill expands access to the oil. This is not a medical cannabis bill.

In 2014 Iowa passed a law allowing use of CBD oil for certain forms of epilepsy. It was a very restrictive and essentially pointless bill. Fewer than 100 people signed up for the registration cards, and over one hundred and fifty thousand dollars of taxpayer money was used to create this program and also audit it. This bill was not good for patients either. Contemplatively, it is an awful bill. Medical cannabis and medical patients cannot be passed on as another “non-issue” this year and history proves that this time we must do it right. Lives depend on it.

This CBD bill is decently written, considering its purpose. One thing I noticed is that it allowed for income assistance in obtaining your medical card, which helps those living in poverty. Baudler’s CBD bill also allows for people to be able to grow the cannabis/hemp and sell it in dispensaries.

The Democratic bill would allow four companies to handle all of Iowa’s medical cannabis distribution. To put it into perspective, Illinois has a very similar program and has 14 companies running the entire state. Those manufacturers control the price, and are depended on for quality. In Illinois, some dispensaries reportedly won’t consider certain companies because their product is deemed “subpar” by other standards. Not having wider access also causes a huge problems for sick and debilitated people, who must drive long distances for only a few weeks worth of cannabis. If the goal is to help patients, Democrats must concede on the corporate control issue and immediately amend that part in their bill to allow Iowans to legally grow and distribute their own medicine.

One thing both sides seem to agree on: they don’t want you to inhale marijuana or CBSs, for that matter. You can compare and contrast the other bills and see that inhale is stricken from all of them and only eating is allowed. I don’t get it. Baudler’s bill wouldn’t allow you to use a smoke free alternative to smoking and vape CBD oil, which is popular. Smoking joints isn’t even that unhealthy for you. Democrats apparently don’t want you to inhale at all, or this never occurred to them. Everyone needs to understand that inhalation is probably the cheapest and most popular way to use. There are some conditions where inhaling is necessary and the only form of therapy. Talk to people going through cancer and see if they want to just eat marijuana. It is a well documented fact that in most successful cancer – cannabis care plans, both eating and inhaling were utilized for the best results to treat all side effects including appetite, vomiting, and controlling mucus. For this subset group, inhaling can be critical, saving lives while keeping families together.

Inhalation needs to be included in any bill. It’s not in any way increasingly harmful, and definitely not as bad or addictive as cigarettes or alcohol, which are legal. We must not let lawmakers take inhalation out of any bill. The bills must be amended.

Baudler’s bill seems to have a broader patient base, so is much less restrictive. I wonder if that has to do with the low amount of the psychoactive THC in CBD oil. EIther way, both proposals have expanded coverage for additional medical conditions, which would be great for patients. I’ve tried to get estimates of how many people in Iowa would qualify to acquire CBD as medicine. Illinois has over 16,000 and closing in on 16,500, mostly because its lack of coverage. People have told me possibly 200,000 Iowans would qualify to use cannabis as medicine under the new proposals. Over eighty percent of Iowans support medical marijuana, so I can’t see people not getting it prescribed to them. I believe the numbers in Iowa could be much more.

Another thing addressed in the Democratic bill, but not in the Republican one, is rescheduling of CBD. I don’t know if Baudler didn’t get the memo, but CBD is considered a schedule 1 drug now. I didn’t see anywhere in his bill where he addressed that particular issue. However, the Democrats did. Prior to the rescheduling of CBDs, you could get hemp oil that contained some of the same things as the cannabis plant. Now with the law being changed the Republicans, if they are serious, need to address that issue finally. Republican President Trump supports medical marijuana, and so did many close to President Ronald Reagan. Let the doctors do the doctoring.

Neither bill deals with decriminalization. I know there is a bill or two floating around right now, but it’s important that we have these safeguards. There also need to be safeguards for patients; in Illinois, some doctors have reportedly refused to write prescriptions for people who qualify. Some people with histories of encounters with the law have also been refused access. I know Arizona changed their law in the past few years to allow felons access to medical cannabis, but we need to make sure they also have access in Iowa. That’s literally a lawsuit waiting to happen, and it has happened before. I’m told Illinois is working on fixing their law.

It’s really possible to set the bar here in Iowa with a comprehensive plan based on what we’ve learned and observed from other states. We could also make it so our colleges and universities could study the medical and agricultural benefits. You can even literally feed the seeds safely to farm animals. If we provide as much access to patients and industry as possible our small communities and those in it will definitely see the benefit. This is an issue that the majority of Iowans agree on and the results in the medical community prove themselves. Let’s come together to do this, but let’s do this right.

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  • thank you for writing this

    It’s a frustrating issue, because even getting an inadequate bill through the Iowa legislature is a very heavy lift. The Iowa Senate Democrats excluded smokeable marijuana from their bill in 2015 to try to win bipartisan support, but Brad Zaun was the only Republican to support their bill.

    According to this story by Brianne Pfannenstiel in today’s Des Moines Register,

    Dennis Tibben, a lobbyist for the Iowa Medical Society, said the organization currently is opposed to the bill and urged lawmakers to “keep the protections you offer for prescribers so they don’t have a duty to prescribe.” […]

    Legislators said they wanted to be clear with Iowans: This is not recreational marijuana. The bill bans smoking and vaping of medical cannabis oil, and it creates criminal penalties for patients and producers who intentionally violate the law.

    Klein said it’s his intention to ensure the medical cannabis bill is approved by a full committee before the end of next week, which marks a legislative deadline known as the “funnel.” In order to qualify for continued consideration, bills must pass through a full committee in either the House or the Senate by March 3.

    “Is this where we’re going to end up exactly? I don’t know,” Klein said, noting the bill may be amended going forward. Last year there were numerous medical marijuana bills introduced at various times. He said this year, all efforts will be focused on House Study Bill 132.

  • Good read

    I’d also add that inhalation is safer than most prescription drugs. People inhale it because it hits the blood stream faster and they can control the dose better.

    • Inhalation is not harmful

      Yes, there is a study that shows inhalation is not very harmful

  • What now?

    HSB 132 was already pulled today 2/24/17. And now two other bills HSB 159 and HSB 164 seem to be floating around.

    HSB 164 seems to repeal the expiration date of the Medical Cannabidiol Act from 2014 but has a lot of verbiage regarding FDA approved cannabidiol.

    I fear that this bill will make it so that it excludes those of us already using commercial oils vs pharma-grade oils and will fail to protect us. What are your thoughts?

    • Full plant therapy

      I personally have no faith in how pharmaceutical companies could and have perverted the cbds and how our body reacts to them. I would love to see it studied unabated as well. We do know what works though, and there’s an entire industry dedicated to this stuff. I believe in full plant therapy, you need THC for some cbds to be beneficial and also THC^a which has health benefits. I believe patients should have a choice. If a drug company wants to attempt to synthesize cbds, I would like the choice of a non generic form. These bills are for patients and it’s important that we make politicians recognize this and be held accountable. You shouldn’t play Politics when lives are at risk and people are suffering.

  • Strike and Replace

    Access to cannabis is a personal freedom issue before it is a medical issue. There is no such thing as “recreational” usage. It is ADULT usage. The difference in framing is very important. Recreation is like golf or bowling. Adult usage is like beer and wine or Templeton Rye. All democrats and all Tea Party Republicans should support ADULT usage. It is Personal Freedom.
    We should skip the entire medical cannabis effort. It distracts from the winning argument, delays the access to medicine to many for no valid reasons. Many legislative efforts enact NEW penalties that will cause many more problems as we have seen in States with for-profit prisons. Delays only allow for huge business (Philip Morris) to get their marketing arms mobilized to capture any new business opportunities in Iowa, effectively blocking out local entrepreneurs. This is especially true for cannabis oil and new uses from ag hemp.
    It is Personal Freedom…that is under attack.