A bill recently introduced in the Iowa Senate would allow physicians to prescribe marijuana to patients with chronic illnesses.
According to the Iowa Poll, 64 percent of Iowans are in favor of allowing medical marijuana in Iowa. Since the poll was conducted in 2010, four states have added themselves to the growing list of the now 18 states which allow medical marijuana.
Sen. Joe Bolkcom, a sponsor of the proposed bill, is unsure when Iowa will join the list.
“We’re still in an educational process with policy makers on the issue. There are certainly members of legislature that are opposed,” Bolkcom said.
As the bill enters the legislature, constituents' communication with their representatives is vital.
“Like any issue here, members of the legislature need to hear from people back at home that care about this issue,” Bolkcom said.
The proposed bill outlines who can prescribe, produce, sell and consume medical marijuana. But even with the proposed regulation, opposition still has concern about how the drug would be controlled if it is legal for medicinal use.
“Over the last number of years working on this issue, I’ve gotten hundreds of emails from Iowans that would like to have legal access to marijuana to meet their healthcare needs,” Bolkcom said. “There are a substantial number of chronically ill people that would get some benefit from being able to legally access marijuana to manage their pain and medical conditions.”
These medical conditions are defined in the proposed bill as being chronic or debilitating diseases or treatment that produces pain which does not respond to ordinary medicine or surgery.
Some examples of conditions are cancer, glaucoma, HIV-positive status and agitation of Alzheimer’s.
If passed, the bill would allow doctors to prescribe marijuana by reclassifying it as a schedule II controlled substance rather than schedule I.
“I think law enforcement is going to feel better if they know that only people with chronic medical conditions that have a doctor’s prescription have access to legal marijuana. I share the concern of law enforcement about that, and any program that would be established in Iowa would have to be tightly controlled,” Bolkcom said.
Last week, a similar bill was introduced and shot down quickly in the Iowa House. It’s likely this bill will have the same fate.
“We generally do things that constituents want, and I think we’re in the process on this issue where the advocates need to educate their legislatures about why this is so important,” Bolkcom said.
Bolkcom hopes that there will be a subcommittee within the next couple of weeks to discuss the bill.