Iowa Senate Subcommittee Approves Medical Marijuana Bill

Iowa Senate Subcommittee Approves Medical Marijuana Bill

DES MOINES, IA – A bill that would legalize the medical use of marijuana in Iowa was approved by a Senate subcommittee Monday, but is unlikely to advance further this year.

Senator Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, said that his bill, Senate File 79, lacks support in the full Human Resources Committee, where the bill has been assigned.

The bill was approved by a three person subcommittee on Monday following testimony from citizens suffering from multiple sclerosis and post-traumatic stress disorder,  who told the subcommittee that marijuana was a better alternative to synthetic prescription drugs.

Sen. Bolkom’s bill would exempt patients in Iowa suffering from cancer, HIV/AIDS, ALS, severe pain and nausea, and other ailments from arrest and prosecution for using marijuana under their physicians’ recommendations.

Patients or their caregivers would be able to grow their medicine or they could obtain it from a nonprofit dispensary.

Republican subcommittee member Sen. Joni Ernst opposed the bill, saying it would be difficult to ensure dispensaries wouldn’t sell marijuana to people without a recommendation.

A companion bill in the House, HF 22, has already been killed by the House Public Safety Committee after a brief hearing in January.  Committee chairman, Rep. Clel Baulder (R-Greenfield), a retired Iowa State Patrol officer, made it clear from the beginning of the meeting that the bill had no chance at advancing, calling medical marijuana bill “asinine.”

A February 2010 Seltzer & Co. poll found that 64% of Iowans think the state should enact a law allowing seriously ill patients to use medical marijuana if their doctors recommend it. That same month, the Iowa Board of Pharmacy voted unanimously to recognize marijuana’s medical value.

Eighteen states and the District of Columbia allow patients with qualifying conditions to use medical marijuana with recommendations from their physicians. At least 10 more states are expected to consider similar legislation this year, and such bills have already been introduced in Alabama, FloridaIllinoisKansasKentuckyNew Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, and Oklahoma.