The Iowa state government has been under the medical marijuana microscope recently after reports surfaced that the Medical Cannabidiol Act, signed by Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad in May of 2014, has yet to help a single patient.
This very limited medical marijuana bill, enacted in July, only permits patients suffering from intractable epilepsy to treat the condition with the non-psychoactive cannabinoid, cannabidiol (CBD), in the form of oil. The biggest issue with this type of limited legislation is not the fact that only one form and one method of delivery is permitted, nor that only patients suffering from one very specific medical condition are legally permitted to possess the oil. The tallest hurdle is that the law does not allow for the CBD oil to be produced or distributed in the state. There is no way for qualified patients to legally obtain the CBD oil.
If patients wanted safe access to the targeted cannabinoid therapy, they would be forced to break the law somewhere along the line. One option would be to illegally cultivate their own cannabis plants to then produce their own oil at home. Another option would be to purchase the oil in a state where it is legal, and then risk prosecution to carry it across state lines.
At least one Iowa law maker, Sen. Joe Bolkcom (D-Iowa City), recognizes this injustice, and is pushing to mend the problem. Sen. Bolkcom is drafting legislation for the 2015 session that would amend and expand the Medical Cannabidiol Act.
The new bill would allow for in-state medical marijuana production and distribution. It will also expand the list of qualifying medical conditions to include other suffering patients. Bolkcom also reported that he plans to include a provision that establishes a panel to advise future medical marijuana regulations. He explained,
“The other issue is creating a medical panel that would determine what conditions are appropriate to be included in the plan. So the big thing is production, testing and dispensing here in the state of Iowa.”
Even if this proposal is approved by the Senate, it will not likely earn much support from the Republican controlled Iowa House. Even though this particular legislation is not likely to pass, it does at least bring the issue to the attention of Iowa lawmakers, and may pave the way for future legislation.
photo credit: Iowa Public Radio
The “Medical Cannabidiol Act,” signed by Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad in May of last year, took effect on July 1, 2014. This limited medical marijuana legislation protects patients suffering from only one form of epilepsy and their caregivers from facing prosecution for possessing the form of medical marijuana known as cannabidiol (CBD) oil.
As of January 2015, the Iowa Department of Public Health has not issued a single medical marijuana identification card. This means that zero patients have been helped from the enactment of this restrictive law.
Under the Medical Cannabidiol Act, only patients suffering from intractable epilepsy are permitted to use only the non-psychoactive cannabinoid known as CBD, in the form of oil. This medicine must contain less than 3 percent of the psychoactive cannabinoid THC. Not only does this legislation seriously restrict who can use cannabis therapy, it also does not allow for the CBD oil to be produced or manufactured in the state. This means that even if a patient is able to qualify for the Iowa medical marijuana program, he or she would be forced to obtain their medicine on the black market.
One of the parents of a boy with intractable epilepsy, who advocated for this law, Maria La France explained her fear of using CBD oil to the quad city times,
“It’s just too dangerous. It’s too scary to break the law, too difficult to lose sleep at night. I frankly spend enough time worrying if my child is going to live another week. I have experimented … I don’t want to say anything that’ll get me arrested or in jail. I don’t want a lynch mob. Who would take care of him if I got arrested.”
La France did obtain a medical marijuana card for her son in Colorado last year, but she let it expire out of fear of prosecution. Even if she kept the Colorado medical marijuana card up to date, she would be committing a crime punishable by years in jail every time she carried the medicine across state lines.
Essentially, the Medical Cannabidiol Act of Iowa is a completely pointless piece of legislation that benefits no one. Senator Joe Bolkom of Iowa City realized this and plans to introduce a bill to develop the medical marijuana program a bit further when the Iowa legislature reconvenes. Bolkom reported that he wants to allow patients suffering from more medical conditions to be eligible, and pointed out, “The medicine has to be produced within the state.”
For the sake of those suffering from many different debilitating medical conditions in the state of Iowa, hopefully the state legislature will take a good look at the weakness of the Medical Cannabidiol Act, and make the necessary amendments for it to be an effective law.