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STEVE ELLIOTT

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With the majority of the public in support of the idea, Iowa state Senator Joe Bolkcom said it’s time for his fellow legislators to follow suit. Bolkcom (D-Iowa City) is one of four senators cosponsoring a bill this year that would allow doctors to authorize medical marijuana use by patients.

A similar bill was introduced in the Iowa House this winter, but two Republicans on a three-person subcommittee killed it last month, reports Josh O’Leary at the Iowa City Press-CitizenOther legislation in pst years — including previous efforts by Bolkcom — have likewise not met with success.

But Bolkcom argues that the public is out in front of lawmakers on this issue. A new Des Moines Register Iowa Poll backs him up, showing 58 percent of Iowans favor legalizing medical marijuana. The Iowa Pharmacy Board agrees, as well, having recommended in 2010 that the state reclassify marijuana as a Schedule II drug, moving it down from Schedule I, the most tightly regulated category.

Sen. Joe Bolkcom: "Quote" [Iowa Senate Democrats]
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Sen. Joe Bolkcom:
“I’ve heard from a variety of people, in all sorts of circumstances, all ages and all kinds of chronic conditions that have basically broken the law in order to have a health care solution that helps them manage their pain”
[Iowa Senate Democrats]

The poll showed that Iowans’ opinions on medical marijuana vary by age. For example, 68 percent of adults under 35 support legalizing cannabis for medicinal purposes, compared to 58 percent of people 35-54 and 49 percent of people 55 and older.

Only 29 percent of Iowans support legalizing the recreational use of marijuana, up one point from a 2010 poll, reports Tony Leys at The Des Moines Register. Of those younger than 35, 47 percent support overall legalization, compared to 28 percent of people 35-54 and just 16 percent of those 55 or older.

The poll also showed some stark partisan differences. Among Iowa Democrats, a whopping 75 percent support legalizing medical marijuana, compared to a paltry 39 percent of Republicans. Fifty-eight percent of political independents support medicinal cannabis.

“It’s amazing to hear the stories of people that have essentially used all the most powerful narcotic drugs that you can possibly be prescribed by your doctor and get at the pharmacy,” Bolkcom said. “They find that in many cases they don’t work, or the side effects are so negative that they’ve gone out on the street and illegally acquired marijuana at substantial risk to them.

“I’ve heard from a variety of people, in all sorts of circumstances, all ages and all kinds of chronic conditions that have basically broken the law in order to have a health care solution that helps them manage their pain,” Bolkcom said.

Dr. John Stamler: "Quote" [Eye Physicians & Surgeons, LLP]
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Dr. John Stamler:
“We’re entrusted with that sort of prescribing, and it seemed like we can probably be entrusted with something that has a lot less potential for harm, like marijuana”
[Eye Physicians & Surgeons, LLP]

Ophthalmologist John Stamler of Iowa City was one of the experts who spoke before the Iowa Pharmacy Board when it had a medical marijuana hearing on the campus of the University of Iowa in 2009. The hearing, one of several across the state, preceded the board’s unanimous decision to recommend reclassifying cannabis as a Schedule II drug and potentially making it available for medicinal uses.

The reclassification of marijuana to a less restrictive category would allow more research into its effectiveness, according to Stamler.

“Physicians are responsible for prescribing a lot of drugs that have a lot of danger to them — narcotics, amphetamines, anti-cancer drugs and so forth — drugs that have a high degree of toxicity,” Stamler said. “We’re entrusted with that sort of prescribing, and it seemed like we can probably be entrusted with something that has a lot less potential for harm, like marijuana.”

“People just do not think we should be criminalizing sick people for improving their quality of life by using marijuana,” said Mason Tvert, a spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). According to Tvert, momentum is shifting everywhere in favor of medical marijuana.

Senator Bolkcom said medical marijuana advocates are making progress, but although many lawmakers speak privately of favoring medicinal cannabis, there is “too much of a stigma” attached to support it publicly.

So, Iowa, how about you elect a Legislature that actually, you know, represents you?

 

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