Iowa City Councilman with Chron’s disease jailed for medical marijuana

May 18, 2009 (Source) A Siouxland councilman who’s been busted for possession of marijuana says the system is broken when it comes to helping him and others.

Steve Rank has served on the Everly, Iowa city council for the past seven years. He’s also served on various committees and volunteer positions in the town. His battle with Crohn’s disease has been about twice as long, and now his position in town is in jeopardy as he tries to find a way to cope with pain.

Steve Rank is on various medications as he deals with his Crohn’s disease as well as two herniated disks in his neck. For him it’s his only legal option to deal with the pain associated with his illnesses, his main source of pain being the Crohn’s, an inflammatory disease of the gastrointestinal tract, a disease that Rank says is both painful and embarrassing.

“Deep, deep horrible pain in my gut, constant diarrhea, going to the bathroom 8 to 15 times a day, couldn’t eat food, it got to the point anything that when down, I threw up,” says Rank of his symptoms.

Rank says he has used marijuana sporadically over the past 15 years to help ease the abdominal pain and nausea so that he could eat solid foods again. The medications he was prescribed could only do so much for him, and he considers them to be much more dangerous.

“Any one of these drugs here you can die from overdosing,” said Rank as he looked over his small arsenal of prescribed medications. “Any one of these drugs here have serious, serious side effects.”

Rank says the side effects include abdominal pains, nausea and bloody stool, the same symptoms of the disease they’re supposed to treat. Rank says his choice to use marijuana for medicinal purposes puts him in a hard spot since it’s not legal to do so in Iowa, plus it makes things difficult as a public figure.

After his arrest for possession May 11, many folks in town aren’t sure he should keep his post on the council.

“Any kind of drug used by anybody, whether you’re on council or not, is wrong,” said Pam Boelman of Everly. “If it’s illegal, leave it alone.”

“He is a good councilman. What he did was wrong and, gosh, I don’t know. If he wants to give it up that should be his choice,” said Kathy Watkins, also of Everly.

“There’s no reason to have a vote. I think he should do the right thing and step down,” said Everly resident Brad Phelps.

Rank says he will plead guilty to the charges and face the consequences, but hopes future chronic pain sufferers won’t have to do the same.

“When I was at the jail the deputy asked me ‘I imagine you’re not going to smoke marijuana again?’ and I told him ‘well, yeah I am.’ And he looked at me and its like ‘you took my drug but you did not take my disease,'”said Rank.

Rank met with the Everly city council for the last time Monday night. He decided to hand in his letter of resignation to avoid anymore negative attention to the council and the town, and says leaving was inevitable anyway as he has plans to move out of state in the next couple months.

Currently 13 states allow the medical use of marijuana. Iowa considered legislation on such a measure this past session and will likely discuss it more when they reconvene.

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