Iowa Pharmacy Board Opens Door To Medical Marijuana


Photo: Patients for Medical Cannabis
One of Iowa’s biggest crops may be headed towards becoming one of its best medicines

​The Iowa Board of Pharmacy voted unanimously Wednesday afternoon to recommend that the Legislature reclassify marijuana in a way that would open the door to medical uses.

The board recommended that Iowa lawmakers move cannabis from Schedule I, for which there are no permitted uses, to Schedule II, which allows medical uses, reports Tony Leys at the Des Moines Register.
Also recommended by the board was the creation of a state task force, including patients, medical professionals and law enforcement officers, to devise a way to safely implement a medical marijuana program in Iowa.

Medical cannabis advocates cheered the result when the 6-0 vote was taken, but quickly acknowledged that hurdles remain before marijuana becomes available to patients in Iowa.

Patient advocate Carl Olsen: “This is a big thing. This is momentum.”

​”This is a big thing,” said Carl Olsen, one of the measure’s main proponents. “This is momentum.”
“If you’re a medical patient and you use marijuana for medical purposes, and you get arrested, your jury is going to be a whole lot more sympathetic today than it would have been yesterday,” Olsen said. “All the work I’ve put into this has paid off.”
Olsen said he didn’t expect the Legislature to consider medical marijuana until next year’s legislative session.
During a morning of discussion before the vote was taken, the six board members appeared to be split on whether medical cannabis would be a good idea, according to the Register.
Vice Chairwoman Susan Frey, a pharmacist, said marijuana clearly has benefits for some patients. But she said, inaccurately, that current pharmaceutical medications based on marijuana offer the same benefits. (Most medical marijuana patients report that Marinol, which is synthetic pharmaceutical THC, doesn’t work as well as herbal cannabis.)
Board Chairman Vernon Benjamin, also a pharmacist, said he doesn’t believe marijuana is more likely to cause addiction than alcohol or prescription narcotics can. He also said the attraction of marijuana to young people is enhanced by the fact that it’s illegal.
The Pharmacy Board last year sidestepped a court ruling which had ordered it to consider whether the state should reclassify marijuana as having medical value. The board, however, agreed to hold hearings and consider making a recommendation to the Legislature.
Last fall, the board held four public hearings around Iowa, at which most speakers were in favor of medical marijuana. The Pharmacy Board spent several months catching up on scientific research which has been done on the herb.
Des Moines Register Iowa Poll released this week found that 64 percent of Iowans support allowing patients to use marijuana if their doctors recommend it.
Medical marijuana bills in the Iowa Legislature are considered dead for 2010, but advocates hope the Pharmacy Board’s recommendations will give the issue momentium next year.
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