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Medicinal marijuana unlikely to pass Legislature

BY BRENT GRIFFITHS | JANUARY 27, 2014 5:00 AM

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DES MOINES — State Democrats and Republicans alike agree medicinal marijuana will not be legalized this session, which does not surprise Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, but the number of questions and the amount of skepticism from other senators make passage not only unlikely this year but possibly for years to come.

“Many times, there are bills filed when two or three or four or five years go by, and then finally people are to the point where they say it’s time to move on that,” Bolkcom said. “[Working on a medicinal-marijuana bill] is a conversation that’s ongoing, so there’s reason to continue to file bills and try to perfect a set of ideas.”

Bolkcom believes his colleagues are in “education mode” at the moment, so he expects questions and some apprehension on the issue. Despite those concerns, the Iowa City senator said his goal for this session is to file a bill with bipartisan support.

“Once we get to a place where we have bipartisan support on a piece legislation … I’m hopeful that people’s apprehension about the political dynamic about being for this falls away, and we get to business on how do we end the suffering of our fellow citizens whose need for pain management and care is not being met by conventional medicine “

Beyond building support in his own party, the prospects of the other 24 members of the Senate supporting a bill is “dead on arrival,” according to at least one Senate Republican.

“My caucus is a not going to go down this path, so there are 24 votes in the Senate right there, and I’m sure there are enough Democrats who do not want to see a vote on this on the Senate floor,” Sen. David Johnson, R-Ocheyedan, said. “It doesn’t have a chance of passing the Senate or the House or to be signed by the governor.”

Other Democrats also agree Iowa will not join the 20 states and Washington, D.C., that have passed medicinal-marijuana legislation anytime soon.

Sen. Bob Dvorsky, D-Coralville, also believes the bill is not ready for passage this session. But he feels Bolkcom is doing the right thing when it comes to educating his colleagues on the issue.

“Sometimes they talk about bills not being ripe, ready to go … that’s certainly one that I think applies here,” Dvorsky said.

Sen. Jeff Danielson, D-Cedar Falls, who also has some concerns about a possible bill, said it is hard to predict when the issue could eventually pass, but he noted it “takes awhile to reach critical mass” on certain issues.

Speaking outside the Senate Chamber on Jan. 14, Bolkcom said he was realistic when it came to the chances of the issue passing this session, but he remains hopeful Iowa will not fall behind the progress of other states.

“I’m hopeful we can catch up to where the people of the state are on this issue — the Legislature on a whole host of issues trails the population — you don’t get us on the leading edge of movements,” he said. “Twenty other states have moved on this, and I just hope Iowa isn’t the last.”


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