A closeted marijuana smoker's view of prejudice in the Iowa Code

As Iowa lawmakers consider proposals to allow the use of cannabis derivatives for some medical conditions, Matt Chapman makes the case for going further to legalize smokeable marijuana. -promoted by desmoinesdem

I illegally used marijuana for pain for years and it would be disingenuous to say I didn’t enjoy the side effects. It would also be disingenuous to say I don’t like the effect of hydrocodone or don’t like the effect of a large dose of ethanol as well. But to use ethanol every evening to take the edge off of pain and to get some good sleep would be a disaster.

And while it is under prohibition and illegal to use, it gave me a lot of relief and helped stave off the point where I could not take the pain any longer. I would use it in the evening. And before I went to bed I would use some along with amitriptyline and would sleep well. And I have no problem publicly discussing this as I had to choose which medication I would use and hydrocodone was the winner.

I am the youngest of four and all five of my family members have been to rehab numerous times but me. Mostly alcohol and prescription drug abuse but I have a sister that goes to the methadone clinic and another sister that was an intravenous drug user and has many health complications from that. I am honest with my doctor and as far as opioids go I am on a short leash.

I have denied opioids for pain for many years. When my back and the sciatic nerve got to the point that I could no longer sleep, I finally got a pain contract with my doctor.

One thing about a pain contract is that you have to give a urinalysis sample randomly to check for other compounds and make sure that you are not abusing your medication with other opioids or similar compounds. Unfortunately marijuana (THC) is one of those compounds.

As time has moved on, the opioids aren’t working as well, and my primary physician has told me the next step is a pain specialist. If I could have combined the two–marijuana in the evening with hydrocodone–I can’t help but think it would lower the amount of opioid to get the same relief. And I would add that I could drink a case of beer or a bottle of hard liquor every night and still get hydrocodone. Once again that would be a disaster.

The prohibition of marijuana is cruel in many ways. It is cruelest in the way that it denies children relief from debilitating illness, seizures and chronic pain in the form of oil that has very little if any intoxicating effect.

It is cruel in the way that it denies people suffering in various ways from chronic pain to PTSD to chemotherapy from cancer treatment to get relief.

It is cruel in the way that even here discrimination is apparent as Black Iowans are eight times as likely to be arrested as whites for marijuana while using at the same per capita rate in Iowa. (Source: American Civil Liberties Union)

It is cruel in the punishment of individuals who use it for recreation and while legal in eight states Iowa has some of the harshest penalties.

Marijuana is a schedule I hallucinogenic substance under the Iowa Controlled Substances Act.

Iowa Code § 124.204(4)(m)
For first offenders, possession of any amount of marijuana is a misdemeanor and is punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and/or up to 6 months of imprisonment. Second offenders are subject to a fine of $315-$1875 and/or up to 1 year of imprisonment. Third offenses are considered aggravated misdemeanors and are punishable by a fine of $625-$6250 and/or up to 2 years of imprisonment.
Iowa Code § 124.401(c)(5)
Iowa Code § 903.1
Iowa Code § 124.409
Offenders who are chronic abusers of marijuana may be sent to rehab. If this program is successfully completed the court may place the defendant on probation.
Iowa Code § 124.409
Possession of marijuana within 1,000 feet of an elementary school, secondary school, public park, or school bus is punishable by the penalty for possession and 100 hours of community service.
Iowa Code § 124.401B

The punishment for production and distribution of marijuana in Iowa is very harsh and the ways defined are many so I will not go into it for the sake of time. I just want to say that removing the prohibition of marijuana would not only save many lives from being ruined, it would remove a source of funding for criminal activity from the small-time smuggler or producer to the organized criminal and cartel enterprises.

It is past time to quit creating an illegal empire to fill the need and make millions of dollars that could go into state coffers but doesn’t due to this prohibition.

It is past time to quit discriminating against folks who enjoy marijuana like a good wine our bourbon without the side effects of a hangover.

It is about time to quit denying children and adults an option to treat chronic health challenges and pain just because of an ideology.

And if that ideology leads you to deny folks this relief from suffering or enjoying their liberty in this way, if it leads you to deny access for parents of children to control chronic seizures, it is about time to re-evaluate your ideology.

Dallas County resident Matt Chapman closely follows Iowa legislative affairs.

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  • I agree

    Waging war on sick and injured citizens has got to be one of the colossal failures of government.

  • Reducing opioid epidemic

    It is time to remove the stigma of marijuana and allow it to be used for it’s medical purposes – which are many including treating pain. More people died from drug overdoses in 2014 than any year on record and the majority of dug overdose deaths involved an opioid. States with legalized marijuana have been found to have fewer overdose deaths. The annual number of deaths from prescription drug overdose is 25% lower than in states where medical marijuana remains illegal. The health benefits are documented. There is economic benefits also – one study found medical marijuana laws reduce prescription medication use in those who are on Medicare Part D. Medicare and its enrollees spent about $165 million less in 2013 because of changes in prescribing in 18 states that allow medicinal use of marijuana. It’s time for Iowa to allow medical marijuana use – to save lives and save money. What’s the hold up???