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Medical cannabis oil expansion a tiny step in the right direction

Published: Friday, April 28, 2017 10:03 a.m. CDT

The Iowa Legislature made a modest stride forward with a medical cannabis oil bill slated for Gov. Terry Branstad’s signature.

Under current law, Iowans are allowed to possess cannabis oil for the treatment of epilepsy but it’s essentially illegal for Iowans to obtain it because manufacturing and distribution is illegal, and federal law says it can’t be transported across state lines.

House File 524 would allow for the production and distribution of cannabis oil in Iowa. It’s a step forward for Iowans who suffer from epilepsy, AIDS and HIV, cancer, Crohn’s disease, multiple sclerosis, seizures, Parkinson’s disease, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis and many terminal diseases. The watered-down House version that passed on the last day of session neglects many other Iowans enduring the horrors of a myriad of diseases.

The Senate bill provided for more than 20 diseases or conditions in which medical marijuana could be used. Further, the Senate bill, which passed 45-5, allowed for the use of the whole marijuana plant to maximize higher levels of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol — the principal psychoactive element of cannabis). The weakened House bill allows oil which contains less than 3 percent THC.

The low level of THC could cause manufacturers to pause before submitting proposals to the Department of Public Health, which is authorized to approve two manufacturers and five distributors in Iowa. As widespread budget cuts take hold across state agencies, the funding for the new program hasn’t been appropriated.

Lawmakers have been foolish to move so slowly in allowing for the legalization of medical marijuana, especially when most Iowans support the idea. It’s unfortunate we’ll endure yet another legislative session in which helpless Iowans will make their way to the Capitol to showcase their struggles for an static Legislature.

It’s not a matter of Iowa being progressive, it’s a matter of common sense.

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