I received this email last night from a Republican in the Iowa Senate:
The comment I have heard most among legislators is that the “medical marijuana” issue is being used to move towards legalizing it for everyone. Is that right? What do you think?”
Here’s my response:
Thank you very much for responding. Feel free to call me anytime if you’d like to get together and talk more. My cell phone is below.
A couple of years ago I spoke with Scott Imler, one of the original authors of Prop 215, the voter initiative which legalized cannabis in California. I told him that California’s system was a joke, blatantly corrupt, and abused widely. He agreed.
The authors of Prop 215 intended for the bill to be nothing more than an exemption for truly sick people whose doctors couldn’t find a better alternative. Some people took advantage of the bill. So yes, there are some people out there who openly say that they hope that medical cannabis will lead to legalization.
While unfortunate, that does not mean the issue is a joke.
Before 1937, when the Marihuana Tax Act outlawed cannabis, cannabis extracts were sold by pharmaceutical companies, and was listed in the U.S. Pharmacopeia:
“By 1850, marijuana had made its way into the United States Pharmacopeia [an official public standards-setting authority for all prescription and over-the counter medicines], which listed marijuana as treatment for numerous afflictions, including: neuralgia, tetanus, typhus, cholera, rabies, dysentery, alcoholism, opiate addiction, anthrax, leprosy, incontinence, gout, convulsive disorders, tonsillitis, insanity, excessive menstrual bleeding, and uterine bleeding, among others.” Richard Glen Boire, JD and Kevin Feeney, JD Medical Marijuana Law, 2007
Before cannabis was taken out of the Pharmacopeia, it had over 100 uses listed for various illnesses. It was removed from the Pharmacopeia in 1942, despite the objections of American Medical Association:
“The American Medical Association (AMA) opposed the act because the tax was imposed on physicians prescribing cannabis, retail pharmacists selling cannabis, and medical cannabis cultivation/manufacturing. The AMA proposed that cannabis instead be added to the Harrison Narcotics Tax Act. The bill was passed over the last-minute objections of the American Medical Association. Dr. William Woodward, legislative counsel for the AMA objected to the bill on the grounds that the bill had been prepared in secret without giving proper time to prepare their opposition to the bill. He doubted their claims about marijuana addiction, violence, and overdosage; he further asserted that because the word Marijuana was largely unknown at the time, the medical profession did not realize they were losing cannabis. “Marijuana is not the correct term… Yet the burden of this bill is placed heavily on the doctors and pharmacists of this country.”  Source: “Marihuana Tax Act of 1937,” available at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marihuana_Tax_Act_of_1937
In 2005, the Iowa Supreme Court told an AIDs patient the decision on medical cannabis was up to the Board of Pharmacy and denied a medical necessity defense:
“Despite the legislature’s conclusion that marijuana has no allowable medicinal use, it left the door open for possible medical uses in the future. Under section 124.204(4)(m), marijuana is a Schedule I controlled substance “except as otherwise provided by rules of the board of pharmacy examiners for medicinal purposes.”
The legislature has recognized that marijuana may have medical value. This is apparent from Iowa Code section 124.206(7)(a), which provides marijuana may become a Schedule II substance (which is one that “has currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, or currently accepted medical use with severe restrictions,” Iowa Code § 124.205(2)). As to marijuana, the “severe restriction” is that its use must be for medicinal purposes “pursuant to rules of the board of pharmacy examiners.” Id. § 124.206(7)(a) (emphasis added). The defendant does not contend, and we do not believe, that the Board of Pharmacy Examiners has adopted any rules that would make marijuana use legal.
These statutes show that our legislature has foreseen the potential medical uses for marijuana but has deferred on the issue until the Board of Pharmacy Examiners has acted. The legislature has, therefore, made the kind of “determination of values” in this debate–enforcement of the marijuana ban versus its potential medical value–that effectively forecloses our recognition of a common-law necessity defense. See Tate, 505 A.2d at 946; LaFave § 10.1. ”
In 2009, the Board of Pharmacy heard testimony on what cannabis can do for otherwise incurable diseases at four public hearings around the state. International media coverage followed. Professors and researchers from as far as Israel called into testify. Former Chair of the Iowa Epilepsy Foundation, Dale Todd, spoke at the October 7, 2009 Iowa City hearing on medical cannabis. His speech is available here: https://weedpress.wordpress.com/iowa-politics-2010/iowa-city-medical-marijuana-hearing-october-7th-2009/former-chair-of-iowa-epilepsy-foundation-supports-medical-cannabis/
On February 17, 2010, after reviewing thousands of documents and hearing over 100 patients testify, the Iowa Board of Pharmacy unanimously recommended that cannabis be relegalized for medicinal purposes. Whether or not some individuals or political organizations have attempted to ride the back of sick people in order to push an agenda is separate from the issue of real medical need. In spite of other states such as California setting up lax regulations which are openly abused and made fun of on late night talk shows, Iowa’s own Board of Pharmacy saw patients in need and responded to the evidence. They liked New Mexico’s medical cannabis program, which has been successful in avoiding the mess California has become, and they recommended rescheduling cannabis from Schedule I.
This summer, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Obama’s choice for US Surgeon General, did an hour long special called “Weed” on CNN about a child with over 200 seizures a day who became seizure free with cannabis oil. Since then, parents from all over the country whose children have epilepsy are traveling to Colorado to get low-THC, high-CBD cannabis for their child’s epilepsy.
Iowa families dealing with epilepsy have been asking for the ability to treat their children with cannabis since this documentary came out. West Des Moines Mayor Steve Gaer and his wife are one of the many families I’ve written about over the past couple of months who are asking the Legislature to consider the issue of medical cannabis and separate it from the issue of legalization. Their daughter Margaret is 23 years old, yet functions at the level of a four to five year old. Here’s the story: https://weedpress.wordpress.com/2013/12/03/west-des-moines-mayors-wife-on-iowa-public-radio-none-of-these-children-will-ever-drive-a-car-or-fly-an-airplane-they-just-need-help-for-their-seizures/
It’s worth noting Dr. Gupta’s statement about the ratio of studies on cannabis pros and cons:
“In my quick running of the numbers, I calculated about 6% of the current U.S. marijuana studies investigate the benefits of medical marijuana. The rest are designed to investigate harm. That imbalance paints a highly distorted picture.” –Dr. Sanjay Gupta, “Why I Changed My Mind on Weed” http://www.cnn.com/2013/08/08/health/gupta-changed-mind-marijuana/
People who cannot function, who are dying, who seriously need help, need the Board’s recommendation to be considered on the merits. Doctors, not politicians, should be discussing this. The politics, the culture war, and the political grandstanding needs to stop — on all sides. I’ve known for four years now about this natural, cheap, effective medicine that can cure otherwise incurable diseases since I participated in the 2009 Board of Pharmacy hearings. Today, people are just beginning to see what the Board saw four years ago. Epilepsy is just one of many diseases that cannabis can help; PTSD for veterans, fibromyalgia, cancer, chronic pain, opioid addiction, the Board heard it all. The Board decided that the Legislature needed to help these people.
People need to stop seeing this issue as a black/white, Cheech/Chong pretending to have glaucoma, and look at the patient stories. Listen to the medical experts — there’s a reason the State of Iowa designated them as the experts on issues such as this one.
I have much more information if you’d like to know more. Please let me know if I can help with any other questions.