Limited medical marijuana passes

BY LILY ABROMEIT | MAY 02, 2014 5:00 AM

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As controversy over legalizing medicinal marijuana escalated, Iowa took its part in the discussion.
As the Iowa Senate comes to a close today, following the House Thursday, a major bill sitting on the governor’s desk is receiving quite a bit of attention.

“We were able to [create] an opportunity for parents living with children with … epilepsy to be able to obtain medical marijuana,” said Sen. Dennis Black, D-Grinnell.

“One only needs to see the effects on that child … and how it can relieve them of the extreme pain and muscle spasms that come with epilepsy.”

The bill allows for the medical use of cannabidiol — oil derived from the marijuana plant — to relieve the symptoms of intractable epilepsy. Twenty-one states and the District of Columbia have legalized the use of medical marijuana for certain patients. The bill amendments passed the Senate Thursday on a 38-8 vote, and the bill will now be sent to Gov. Terry Branstad.

Kelly Shaw, a University of Iowa lecturer in political science, said he was surprised the bill was pushed through; originally, it seemed as if there would be no movement on it.

“If that goes through, that’s a pretty big deal,” he said, noting that Branstad can still veto the legislation.

Shaw said testimonials from mothers with epileptic children had an effect on the legislators.

“It’s pretty hard to say no to women who bring their children there,” he said.

Rep. Chip Baltimore, R-Boone, said although he has the “greatest amount of sympathy and compassion” for the families dealing with epilepsy, he voted against the bill.

“It created a system that facilitates the violation of federal law, and I think that’s a problem for us,” he said.

Aside from marijuana still being illegal in the country, Baltimore said there was not enough research-based evidence to assure him.

“What it comes down to is we were being asked, on very short notice, to take a leap of faith that we would create a system … based on anecdotal evidence, that would violate federal law, and that’s really hard to do,” he said.

Baltimore said he would like to see more research to occur to determine whether the drug is safe.

Black said although he was satisfied with the passing of the bill regarding limited use of medical marijuana, he was overall displeased with the year’s session.

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