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Despite apparent roadblocks, Legislature should legalize medical marijuana

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | DECEMBER 02, 2010 7:20 AM

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For all of those hopeful, keep dreaming. Obtaining a written prescription for medical marijuana in Iowa likely won't happen anytime soon, according to one state legislator.

While the Iowa Board of Pharmacy recently took its final step, drawing up legislation for the Iowa Legislature to consider when it reconvenes in January, Rep. Dave Jacoby, D-Coralville, told the Editorial Board "the bill has no chance this year." Jacoby said he doesn't expect it to even get out of subcommittee.

The Editorial Board has consistently backed legalizing medical marijuana in the past, and we stand by that position. While Jacoby's comments aren't good for medical-marijuana advocates such as us, it doesn't deter us from restating our support. Iowa should join 15 other states and allow patients to receive marijuana for medicinal uses.

This past summer, there was confusion between the Iowa Board of Pharmacy and the Legislature over which had the authority to reschedule medical marijuana. With that dispute effectively over, the ball is now in Iowa lawmakers' court.

Jacoby said that for the Legislature to approve a rescheduling, however, it needs to be OK'd by health-care professionals, the general public, and law enforcement. "You need those three," Jacoby said. "Without all three of those, it just isn't going far." In addition, Republicans now control the House — a hardly propitious switch for medical-marijuana advocates.

Despite the apparent roadblocks, we still support legalizing medical marijuana, however. Opponents need only look at the facts.

Ronald Herman, a University of Iowa clinical professor and director of the Iowa Drug Information Network at the UI College of Pharmacy, said marijuana has legitimate medicinal uses, including relieving pain and nausea and stimulating appetite. There are current treatments used for each of the listed symptoms, all proving to work just as well, if not better. But when comparing medical marijuana to a placebo, studies have shown the marijuana works significantly better.

In addition, medical marijuana has been shown to effectively treat the following five ailments: multiple sclerosis, glaucoma, Parkinson's disease, Tourette syndrome, and epilepsy. Still, very few studies have been conducted, and further research is necessary. "Moving it from schedule I to II will allow more search to be done related to its merits," Herman said. (He wouldn't comment on whether he favored rescheduling the substance.)

While there are certainly other current regiments that provide the same medical benefits as marijuana, every patient is different. Medical marijuana is merely another alternative. Its effects might prove to work better on certain patients than the medicines currently available.

People are suffering, and the current treatments are failing to ease their pain. It's crucial that legislators at least look into the medical marijuana legalization issue before pre-emptively dismissing it. They owe it to Iowans.


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