“It’s interesting that the law pretty much already allows it, and I don’t think too many people realize that…”
Source Within weeks, a group of Iowa lawmakers will meet to discuss interest in legalizing medicinal marijuana in the state and hash out how it could be handled.
After getting a heavy dose of guidance from doctors and pharmacists, lawmakers should decide by the end of the year whether to push for the concept in the next legislative session.
“This is something that would be science-based and it would be bipartisan in origin and around the health of Iowa patients,” said Iowa House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy.
NewsChannel 8’s Emily Price traveled to California, where medicinal marijuana first became legal, and then across Iowa, to find out what it could be like.
Getting a doctor to recommend medical marijuana in California can be a Pacific coast breeze.
“Pretty much you walk in and it’s not really a doctor’s office at all,” said medicinal marijuana patient Jordan Kurtz-Hannah. “It’s just some shanty set up, a little office space that they’ve rented out because they’re trying to just monopolize the money.”
Margo Bouer, 74, has been taking medicinal marijuana for multiple sclerosis for years. She said that medical cannabis isn’t all corrupt. She said she thinks it saved her life.
“I feel like I have something that will, one thing, that will keep me from being in an acute, ready-to-end-it-all stage,” Bouer said.
Since California and Iowa are wildly different places, similar medical marijuana shops might not be likely on a central Iowa street.
“It just doesn’t feel like the Iowa I know,” McCarthy said. “I don’t think Iowans want to move in that direction.”
He said he didn’t expect Iowa to follow California’s model. He said if medicinal marijuana becomes legal, Iowans shouldn’t expect to have imposter doctors ready to write prescriptions on Court Avenue or neon signs of marijuana plants in the town square.
“It would be treated like morphine, which is under a complete doctor’s care, doctor’s prescription only, where it will be heavily monitored and heavily regulated,” he said. “(There would be) severe penalties for anybody that tries to deal in that area outside of a medical situation.”
He said that he recently discovered that a law written decades ago gives the power for legalizing marijuana for medical use to the Iowa Pharmacy Board.
“It’s interesting that the law pretty much already allows it, and I don’t think too many people realize that,” McCarthy said.
When the board voted to recommend medicinal marijuana, it said it wanted state lawmakers to weigh in.
“It is an interesting game changer,” McCarthy said.
Four men said they’re ready to tell their stories to legislative leaders.
Bob Manke of Nevada said he has intense migraines and hates how his prescription medications don’t do the job and put him out of commission for hours on end.
“I just want to tell people this isn’t about getting high,” Manke said. “This is about stopping being so dependent on something like this.” (pills)
Dr. Alan Koslow, a vascular surgeon in Des Moines, said some people see vast improvement after taking marijuana.”I have seen many patients who have gone on medical marijuana who have basically been able to then function and have a normal life,” Koslow said.
George McMahon of Livermore said he considers himself one of those people. Because he participated in a 1990 federal study on medicinal marijuana, he was grandfathered in and is the only man in Iowa allowed to smoke it legally.”I’ve been doing this a long time,” he said.The federal government gives McMahon a tin filled with 300 joints every month.”That was the beginning of my recovery instead of my death,” McMahon said.
Carl Olsen is the man leading the charge to make it legal for every Iowan. He founded the group Iowans for Medical Marijuana.”I just can’t believe we’re putting anybody in jail for that, let alone sick people,” Olsen said.
When the four faced the pharmacy board, they heard some opposition loud and clear.”I think the risk to public health is very valid,” pharmacy board member Susan Frey said in February. “If I were a person with young children, I certainly would not want them exposed to someone smoking something.”
“No sound scientific studies have supported medical use of smoked marijuana for treatment in the United States,” Gary Young of the Iowa Elks Association said in August.
Both of those opinions came in Iowa. In California, where medicinal marijuana has been legal for 14 years, Long Beach Police Chief Jim McDonnell offers both caution and compassion.”I would say learn from the mistakes of others,” McDonnell said. “The doctors are making a lot of money for giving these recommendations. The abuses of this we’ve seen, I think, you could write books on.”
“I don’t believe in breaking laws, but I also believe we make laws to help people,” Bouer said. “You know, use judgment.”McCarthy said it’s too early to know if the Iowa Legislature has enough consensus to move in the direction of legalizing medicinal marijuana, but said there will be an intelligent discussion over the next several months before a decision is made.