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Senators push cannabis-oil bill

BY ALEKSANDRA VUJICIC | APRIL 02, 2014 5:00 AM

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Gov. Terry Branstad met with parents of children with epilepsy who are pushing to legalize cannabis oil Tuesday at the State Capitol.

This comes right as Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, and Sen. Charles Schneider, R-West Des Moines, are drafting a bill to be introduced in the Senate in the coming weeks, which would allow this form of medical marijuana use in the state.

Schneider said the cannabis oil has been shown to have some “really good medical benefits,” especially for patients suffering from epileptic seizures.

Branstad spokesman Jimmy Centers said in a statement to The Daily Iowan that the governor meets with stakeholders on all sorts of pending legislation, and this meeting was no different.

“The meeting was cordial,” Centers said. “The governor listened and empathizes with family members who are seeking this treatment for the medical conditions affecting their loved ones.”

Schneider said even though the odds are probably low that the bill will pass, many views in the Senate have shifted in favor of the cannabis oil, including his own.

Before the legislative session began, Schneider said, such a law could create a front for people to get medical marijuana from doctors to use for recreational purposes, but he has since changed his mind and believes more people are starting to realize this oil has no street value and people couldn’t us it to get high.

“Our chances are getting better by the day,” Schneider said. “This is a limited bill that doesn’t open the door to recreational use. People are getting comfortable with that.”

After Branstad met with the parents, Schneider said he believes that the governor’s mind is more open. He also said Branstad will make phone calls to the governors of Utah and Alabama, states that have legalized cannabis oil.

Sen. Jack Hatch, D-Des Moines, who is running for governor this year, cosponsors the bill. He said the time to act is now, and families should be able to try this form of treatment because it has been shown to help epileptic patients. Hatch asked Branstad to meet with families last week.

“I believe in patient choice,” Hatch said. “That is a contrast between me and Gov. Branstad. The fact is that the governor is not showing the leadership he should as chief executive.”

He said the governor only met with the families because he was politically motivated and pressured by parents.

Tammi Heuck, an Everly, Iowa, woman, has tried reaching out to Branstad on numerous occasions. She spoke with the governor over the phone on Monday.

In those 15 minutes, she told Branstad about her 12-year-old daughter, Shelby, who is taking five different medications, amounting to 20 pills a day — or 7,300 pills a year —for her seizures. The family has consulted with four different neurologists, and Shelby has undergone brain surgery to have her right frontal lobe removed.

The goal of the surgery was to eliminate seizures completely, but the seizures have returned. The family’s other options include putting Shelby on a sixth medication. Heuck learned that the cannabis-oil extract helped reduce the number of seizures and medication for a correspondent in Colorado going through a similar situation.

Heuck said that she refuses to go any further with medication and hopes Iowa leaders will consider some form of legislation.

“I will move with her to Colorado before I do that to her. My child is on five different mediceuticals, and it has taken our daughter away from us,” she said. “We’re not asking for a lot; we just want to be able to attain cannabis oil without criminalization.”


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