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.