Why I'm asking Iowa to seek an exemption from federal drug laws

Carl Olsen recounts his long battle to reschedule cannabis and the latest legal steps in his effort to reconcile state and federal drug laws. -promoted by Laura Belin

Last month, I filed a petition with the Iowa Department of Public Health, asking the agency to start the process of obtaining a federal exemption for Iowa’s medical cannabis law.

I had presented this idea to Iowa’s Medical Cannabidiol Board in August 2019. The board members unanimously approved the concept and recommended in January 2020 that the legislature protect schools and long-term care facilities, which “are hesitant to allow medical cannabidiol products to be administered and stored at the facilities due to the current scheduling of Cannabis at the federal level.” The board suggested “Developing language to protect these facilities or seeking exemption for Iowa’s program from federal drug laws.”

Instead of adopting my proposal, Republican lawmakers approved and Governor Kim Reynolds signed House File 2589, which instructed the Department of Public Health to “request guarantees” from federal agencies that they would not withhold federal funding from educational or long-term care facilities that allow patients to possess or staff to administer medical cannabidiol.

That approach makes no sense, because it would put Iowa in direct conflict with federal drug law. As I wrote in my petition, “There is no formal process for requesting guarantees from federal agencies not to withhold funding for violation of federal drug laws.”

Here’s why Iowa should take a different path.

Continue Reading...

Iowa's COVID-19 fatalities surpass eighth leading annual cause of death

At least 702 Iowans have died from novel coronavirus infections, according to the state’s official website at midday on June 26. Less than four months since the state recorded its first case, the death toll from COVID-19 alone is higher than the number of Iowans who have died in any recent year of flu or pneumonia, which has been the state’s eighth leading cause of death. Those fatalities occurred despite social distancing and other unusual precautions like restricted nursing home visits since March.

Statistics archived by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control indicate that 697 Iowans died of flu or pneumonia in 2018, reflecting a worse than usual flu season. Iowa deaths in that category numbered 582 in 2014, 618 in 2015, 504 in 2016, and 578 in 2017.

Continue Reading...

Model shows distancing, PPE could reduce Iowa's COVID-19 cases, deaths

Novel coronavirus (COVID-19) infections and deaths could increase or decrease substantially in the coming months, depending on how many Iowans practice social distancing or wear personal protective equipment (PPE) routinely in public, according to a modeling app designed by University of Iowa faculty and graduate students.

Six professors of biostatistics or epidemiology collaborated on the model, while a group of graduate students worked on the app and translated materials for a Spanish-language version. The university’s College of Public Health COVID-19 Response Team “developed this tool as a free public service to state and local policymakers, business leaders, and others to assist in guiding the community response to the coronavirus pandemic.”

This incredibly useful resource was derived from publicly-available data, so is not subject to restrictions on release state government imposed as part of the contract the Iowa Department of Public Health and UI College of Public Health signed in April to develop Iowa-specific modeling for COVID-19. Governor Kim Reynolds and state health officials largely ignored that modeling when drafting plans to reopen businesses and venues in May and June, saying “real-time data” was informing such policies.

Continue Reading...

Iowa OSHA visits two more meatpackers; other plants cleared with no inspection

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) staff conducted on-site inspections of two more Iowa meatpacking plants this week, the Iowa Division of Labor confirmed to Bleeding Heartland on June 2.

Documents provided the following day show regulators closed at least four coronavirus-related complaints against Iowa pork processors with no inspection.

Inspectors toured the Tyson Foods turkey plant in Storm Lake and the Perdue Premium pork facility in Sioux Center on June 1. Both site visits stemmed from “media referrals” rather than complaints, meaning officials acted on unspecified news reports or information relayed to OSHA by a journalistic source.

Continue Reading...

"Projections" on Iowa's COVID-19 website have no scientific basis

UPDATE: Hours after this piece was published, the plus/minus feature disappeared from the state website. Original post follows.

The state of Iowa’s official website for information about the novel coronavirus pandemic incorporated a few tweaks this week. The most noticeable: Department of Public Health staff update various statistics throughout the day, rather than once in each 24-hour period. During her May 18 news conference, Governor Kim Reynolds asserted that the new practice would make data on COVID-19 more “transparent.” Critics pointed out that the frequent updates would make it harder for Iowans to keep tabs on daily changes in coronavirus cases, tests, hospitalizations, and deaths.

Reynolds didn’t announce another addition to the website, which has attracted relatively little notice. Several of the bar graphs can now be adjusted to project the number of daily cases, tests, hospitalizations, or deaths weeks or months into the future.

The trouble is, those projections are not grounded in any principles of epidemiology.

Continue Reading...
View More...