The state of Iowa could possibly be the next state to legalize the use of marijuana for medical purposes.
In January, when the Iowa legislature returns from break, legislation to make marijuana medically available will again be introduced by Sen. Joe Bolkcom. Twenty states and Washington, D.C. have already legalized medical marijuana.
Bolkcom, D-Johnson County, said he has been in favor for medical marijuana for several years. In January, Bolkcom will again attempt to legalize marijuana for medical purposes.
The bill will attempt to change current restrictions on marijuana in the state of Iowa. It will also establish legal access to marijuana for patients with chronic illnesses.
“I’ve heard personal testimonials from my constituents, as well as others from Iowa about the benefits of marijuana," Bolkcom said. "It’s awful that Iowan’s have to risk possible jail time for the only form of medicine that has worked for them."
Studies conducted by the University of California Center for Medical Cannabis Research, have suggested marijuana has many health benefits, especially to those suffering the worst. Marijuana has been known to help patients suffering from HIV, seizures, chronic pain and arthritis.
“People are being subscribed the most powerful pain medication with no relief and harsh side effects. It’s time to provide sensible care to these individuals,” Bolkcom said.
Currently, in Iowa, marijuana is a Schedule I drug, which means it has no potential health benefit or value.
In 2010, the Iowa's Board of Pharmacy voted 6-0 in favor of changing the classification of marijuana from a Schedule I drug to a Schedule II drug.
“The governor does not support legalizing marijuana. He instead believes we should focus on job creation and raising family incomes,” said Tim Albrecht, communications director for Gov. Branstad.
In a recent Iowa Gallup Poll, 58 percent of Iowans were in favor of medical marijuana.
“Iowan’s need to communicate with their legislators to help make medical marijuana possible,” Bolkcom said.
However, there are other legislators who do not support marijuana.
Sen. Jack Whitver, R-Polk County, said that he does not think that it will pass anytime soon because it is difficult to regulate.
“There are two chief concerns on this issue is that any state who has a medical marijuana program has seen higher usage among youth. Marijuana in these states has bled into the youth population and those youth who use have a host of problems like lower IQ, higher likelihood to abuse other drugs like cocaine and higher dropout rates,” said Steven Lukan, director of the Office of Drug Control Policy.
It is not known whether more marijuana will lead to more abuse of the drug. According to the federal government’s Prevention Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Assessment that was shown in Colorado from 2009-2011, marijuana use among students has declined from 25 percent to 22 percent.
"There are promising studies going on right now for prescription drugs that would have the same active ingredients and benefits of medical marijuana," Whitver said. "I am hopeful those products will take the place of medical marijuana in the near future."