Medical marijuana good for patients
Two months after Colorado and Washington became the first American states to legalize recreational use of marijuana, a proposal to reform Iowa’s marijuana laws has come to the state House of Representatives.
Rep. Bruce Hunter, D-Des Moines, proposed the Medical Marijuana Act last week.
The Daily Iowan Editorial Board supports Hunter’s push for medical marijuana in Iowa; the current legal framework around the drug in Iowa is untenable, and this proposal would be the first step toward improvement. Passage of the Medical Marijuana Act would also be a major victory for patients in Iowa who are currently deprived of a legitimate means of treating some particularly debilitating conditions.
The law would legalize the possession and use of marijuana for patients suffering from a number of diseases including cancer, HIV, AIDS, ALS, Alzheimer’s, Crohn’s disease, and glaucoma. Patients with chronic, “intractable” pain or a condition characterized by persistent nausea would also be eligible to receive a prescription for medical marijuana.
The bill also includes provisions for the establishment of a licensing system for eligible patients and for the creation of nonprofit suppliers to sell marijuana to those licensed to buy.
“At this point, there’s no denying that marijuana helps alleviate the symptoms of a host of terrible diseases, many of which are notoriously difficult to treat,” Hunter said in a statement released through the Marijuana Policy Project. “There is a wealth of scientific evidence demonstrating marijuana is significantly less addictive and has far fewer severe side effects than the opiates and other narcotics these patients are taking now.”
The body of research concerning the efficacy of therapeutic marijuana and drugs derived from marijuana lends credence to Hunter’s claims that such drugs have proved to be both effective and safe when used responsibly.
According to an extensive summary of evidence produced by the Washington, D.C.-based NORML Foundation — an organization devoted to reforming America’s marijuana laws — cannabinoids (the class of chemical compounds that includes the chief psychoactive compound in marijuana) have a particularly impressive medicinal track record.
Cannabinoids have been shown to inhibit the growth of many types of cancers including breast cancer, skin cancer, and leukemia; they may also moderate the degenerative effects of autoimmune disorders.
For all its virtues, Hunter’s act faces a virtually insurmountable set of obstacles in the state government. Republican speaker of the Iowa House Kraig Paulsen of Hiawatha said he has no interest in bringing a medical marijuana bill to a vote. Gov. Terry Branstad has used his Office of Drug Control Policy to advocate against marijuana legalization in any form.
Such opponents of medical marijuana typically argue that the alleged dangers of marijuana, as well as the drug’s lack of FDA approval, make it an unfavorable alternative to traditional treatments.
These protestations are likely based more on personal biases than science. A meta-analysis conducted in 2010 by Arno Hazekamp and Franjo Grotenhermen at Leiden University in the Netherlands found that between 2005 and 2009, no fewer than 37 properly controlled studies were conducted to measure the therapeutic effects of medicinal cannabis. The collected research — of which there was more than enough to assuage doubts about a lack of FDA approval — pointed to marijuana as a safe and effective therapeutic remedy for a number of conditions, including chronic neuropathic pain, cancer, and multiple sclerosis.
The debate over the medical efficacy of marijuana has largely been settled: It’s safe and it works. The Iowa legislators should set aside their preconceived notions on the subject and take up Hunter’s Medical Marijuana Act. Eighteen states have moved to provide a little relief for their long-suffering patients; Iowa would do well to become the 19th.
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