Advocates unsure of progress for medical marijuana legislation


April 5th, 2016 by Ric Hanson

Governor Terry Branstad’s “willingness” to work on expanding Iowa’s medical marijuana law is seen as a “great positive sign” by Representative Peter Cownie. Cownie, a Republican from West Des Moines, is sponsoring legislation that would set up marijuana growing and distribution centers in Iowa. “I take that as a real positive step that the governor is keeping an open mind,” Cownie says. Cownie’s legislation would let Iowans with chronic epilepsy, M-S or terminal cancer get cannabis pills, patches or oils produced in Iowa.

“This is only gaining support as legislators become more educated and more comfortable,” Cownie says. “It’s a big leap. This is growing marijuana legally in our state, so legislators have to get comfortable with that and we can’t hide from the fact of what this does because that’s what makes it legal and that’s what will help these people that need it most.” But Senator Joe Bolkcom, a Democrat from Iowa City who’s been a long-time advocate of medical marijuana, is less optimistic about progress on the issue.

“It would be terrific if Governor Branstad would get more engaged in this issue and sit down with Speaker Upmeyer and convince her that it’s time to move forward,” Bolkcom says. House Speaker Linda Upmeyer, a Republican from Clear Lake, says the state should wait ’til the federal government approves marijuana as a prescription medication. Bolkcom says polls show at least four out of five Iowans are ready to join the 23 other states that have legalized marijuana for medical use.

“Nearly 150 million Americans have access to cannabis as medicine,” Bolkcom says. “It’s time to drop the excuses. It’s time to help people who need our help.” In 2015, the Iowa Senate passed a bill that would have set up Iowa-based marijuana growing and dispensing operations for patients with chronic conditions that cause seizures, persistent pain and nausea. A more limited bill has cleared ONE House committee this year, but has stalled in a second House committee.

(Radio Iowa)