I was at the first of the Boards public hearing and testified. The patients (none of whom I would label as Pot heads were so compelling there were times I saw tears in the eyes of the Bo9ard members.
Below is the news story.
Iowa is moving a step closer to legalizing the medicinal use of marijuana.
The chairman of the Iowa Board of Pharmacy told IowaPolitics.com that if public hearings on the issue this week in Iowa City and Nov. 4 in Council Bluffs are similar to ones held Sept. 2 in Mason City and Aug. 19 in Des Moines, the board will likely recommend that the Iowa Legislature allow medicinal use of the drug.
“I would say that if all the other three had a similar kind of content that we had, the board would probably be looking at having to digest that information and make a decision that there is probably a legitimate medical use for some people,” said Vernon Benjamin, a pharmacist from Argyle.
But even if the board does eventually make that recommendation – they are expected to vote on the matter before the end of the year - there is no guarantee legislators will heed the advice of the board.
“This one is a pretty political issue, so I can’t say if they’re going to follow it or not,” said Lloyd Jessen, director of the board.
Jessen said in the past, recommendations haven’t been political and have generally been changes to bring Iowa law into line with federal law. “It's anybody’s guess if they put any weight in the recommendation or not,” Jessen said. “You have to remember Iowa is a pretty conservative state.”
Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal was noncommittal on the topic, saying he will wait and see what the board’s recommendation is, whether a bill comes out of committee and what other stakeholders have to say.
“I think it’s very much up in the air,” the Council Bluffs Democrat said. “I’m certain there’s a law enforcement side to be heard on this issue.”
Thirteen states currently allow the medicinal use of marijuana, Jessen said, while another dozen are considering the issue. Michigan is the only Midwestern state that currently allows its use, while much of the western part of the country has moved toward that policy.
“It seems to be a pretty common topic right now,” Jessen said.
Ann Diehl, a public member of the board from Osceola, said she’s glad the board decided to hold the hearings. Diehl used to be a detoxification nurse at Broadlawns Medical Center in Des Moines.
“It’s been a really interesting experience for me because I just had a totally one-sided view of it, and that was not good,” Diehl said. “I have learned a lot, and I have learned a lot about the medical benefits just from one hearing I've gone to.”
Diehl said she has heard scientific evidence and a lot of compelling stories from people who do have serious medical problems that they feel it helps. “I can say I have a much more open mind on it as far as medical use goes, but I haven’t come to any conclusion yet,” Diehl said.
Peggy Whitworth, a public board member from Cedar Rapids, attended the Iowa City meeting and said she’s been contacted by individuals eager to speak and get their thoughts on the record.
“I think those that have participated have found them interesting and helpful, and I think there are many rank-and-file citizens who are appreciative of an opportunity to express their views,” Whitworth said.
Whitworth said she encouraged the board to gather some solid information through public hearings and base any decision on science. “The reason for the hearings is to gather information from the citizens of Iowa, basically so any action by the Board of Pharmacy is grounded in reality, not simply in vague stories,” Whitworth said.
Benjamin agreed, saying board members are learning about switching the schedule of marijuana just like everybody else is. "You can’t do things like that lightly when federal law says it’s schedule one,” Benjamin said. “We wanted to make sure we had a case to argue if we do support the legalization of it.”