Listeners of this past Monday’s River to River program on Iowa Public Radio heard a very heated discussion. Steve Lukan, Director of the Iowa Office of Drug Control Policy, admitted that medical cannabis is needed for the people of Iowa. Lukan — a former Republican legislator appointed by the Branstad administration — offered an alternative to the Iowa Board of Pharmacy recommendation to legalize medical cannabis.
Instead of following the Board of Pharmacy’s recommendation, Mr. Lukan says Iowans should apply for the Investigational New Drug Program — while incorrectly calling it the “Innovative” New Drug Program. Check out this exchange:
Ben Kieffer: “It sounds like you want to create a law, Steve Lukan, or would be in favor of creating a law that could accommodate the people with justifiable needs here, justifiable medical needs. Do you see a way of doing that?”
Steve Lukan: “Well I think to Dr. Gillette’s point earlier, you know, I think we need to work with some of the programs that are there today to help a very targeted number of people. There is something called the Innovative New Drug, uh, system, which you can actually work with a doctor.”
Mr. Lukan finally admits here that cannabis has medical value for “people in very rare instances,” but cites a program – incorrectly – as an alternative to setting up a program here in Iowa as the Iowa Board of Pharmacy recommended unanimously in 2010.
The program Mr. Lukan incorrectly cites was shut down back in the 1990s. From The Marijuana Policy Project’s 2002 “Medical Marijuana Briefing Paper:”
“”In 1975, Robert Randall, who suffered from glaucoma, was arrested for cultivating his own marijuana. He won his case by using the “medical necessity defense,”, forcing the government to find a way to provide him with his medicine. As a result, the Investigational New Drug (IND) compassionate access program was established, enabling some patients to receive marijuana from the government.
In 1992, in response to a flood of new applications from AIDS patients, members of the Bush administration closed the program to all new applicants. On December 1, 1999, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services updated its medical marijuana policy, restating that the IND program would not be reopened. Consequently, the IND program remains in operation only for the seven surviving previously approved patients.”
–2002 Marijuana Policy Project
Later in the interview, radio host Ben Kieffer asks Mr. Lukan if there’s any common ground he’s willing to concede — and like the Governor he works for, Lukan refuses to have an adult conversation about medical cannabis, while again calling the IND program by the wrong name:
BK: “The question was, where do you see the common ground? Even if it’s a small bit of common ground, where do you see that? Where do you see the Governor, for instance, most likely agreeing to – on a limited basis – to use medical marijuana in the state?”
Steve Lukan: “Well I think the Governor would support individuals who are able to apply for the Innovate New Drug program, who are able to work with a doctor in Iowa, to use an experimental drug through the DEA process with FDA – you know, something that is going through FDA approval. I think that’s an area where we could certainly see some agreement.”
Dr. Steve Jenison and Senator Bolkcom respond:
Dr. Jenison: “Yeah, I would say that, for Investigational New Drugs – which is what I assume you mean – for Investigational New Drugs, I think that before you put that out to the public as a possible alternative, you really need to look into what that looks like. How difficult it is for someone to actually get enrolled in those programs. How difficult it is for a medical provider to be an investigator under that, before you propose that that’s an alternative.”
Senator Bolkcom: “Mr. Lukan continues to say in the press that we’ve seen the increase in youth use of medical marijuana, and that’s not true. So I just want to correct the record on that. The CDC actually does a national and state youth risky behavior survey. And there’s a recent study from 1993 through 2011 covering all 16 states with legalized medical cannabis, and the study results indicate that legalization of medical marijuana has not been accompanied by an increase in the use of marijuana – or other substances – by high schoolers. So I think if we want to have a discussion about this, we should be as factual as possible.
The Branstad administration’s inability to have an adult discussion about the Iowa Board of Pharmacy’s unanimous 2010 ruling could be seen as humorous — if Iowans weren’t needlessly suffering as a result. Stop allowing these politicians to get away with this garbage. Write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to have your story heard. You can remain anonymous. It’s time we defeat these politicians whose paychecks are dependent on prohibition remaining intact.