Senate File 506 — the medical marijuana bill currently making its way through the Iowa Legislature — would expand the current range of conditions treatable by medical marijuana from epilepsy, the only condition that marijuana is currently authorized to use as treatment, to a wide range of physical and mental illnesses including cancer, post-traumatic stress disorder, HIV/AIDS and Parkinson’s disease. It would also allow the sale of marijuana in the state for those with a cannabis registration card and reclassify marijuana in the state to recognize its medical uses.
While the Iowa Senate easily passed the bill 45-5 on Monday night, the Iowa House appears unlikely to have adequate Republican support to do the same. For people living with the aforementioned conditions (as well as with the many more conditions not listed) whom traditional medicines have not helped, this Iowa House must reconsider and change course to work to pass this bill.
Iowa’s current law, which has been in place since 2014, is CBD-specific — meaning only a certain type of cannabis oil is allowed — and only covers epilepsy so severe that other medications have not been able to control it. Additionally, restrictions in place make it essentially illegal to actually obtain cannabis oil, as there are no places in Iowa to legally purchase or grow it. Even more, this law is set to expire in July, with nothing currently in place to replace it. All of these factors create unnecessary roadblocks to accessing care for a population consisting of many young children who could benefit from medical marijuana.
The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, or NORML, an organization dedicated to shifting public opinion toward a pro-marijuana legalization stance, provides links on its website to several peer-reviewed studies showing how medical marijuana can treat the conditions covered in the new bill. Highlights include marijuana being used to treat nausea for cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, both motor and non-motor symptoms in those with Parkinson’s disease, lessening the severity of post-traumatic stress and increased appetite in people with cancer or HIV.
And while, like any drug, the effects of marijuana vary from person to person and illness to illness, denying that certain health benefits exist only hurts patients who should be allowed to access them.
Twenty-nine states have recognized the necessity to broadly legalize medical marijuana use in some form (including the eight states, as well as Washington, D.C., that have legalized it recreationally). Most recently, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice signed a medical marijuana bill into law Wednesday after its passage by the state’s Republican-controlled Legislature. This should serve as an indication that even Iowa has the ability (and, perhaps, the support) to pass a bill that can help thousands of Iowans.