Pubdate: Thu, 03 Feb 2005
Source: Ottumwa Courier, The (IA)
Copyright: 2005 Ottumwa Courier
Contact:  Matt Milner, Courier staff writer
Cited: National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws ( )
Cited: Raich v. Ashcroft ( )
Cited: Students for Sensible Drug Policy ( )
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)


DES MOINES - Two area senators are right in the middle of a proposal
to legalize marijuana for medical reasons in Iowa. But they say the
proposal may not even make it to a debate.

Sens. David Miller, R-Fairfield, and Keith Kreiman, D-Bloomfield
co-chair the Senate Judiciary Committee. The committee has 48 bills
before it. One is Senate File 64, which seeks to legalize marijuana
for specific medical use.

The even split between Republicans and Democrats in the Senate means
the parties share chairmanships. Both co-chairs must agree in order
for a bill to come to committee debate. Miller said Wednesday that
won't happen.

"I don't support it and I don't think it has a chance to come out of
committee," he said.

Miller has not spoken with Kreiman about the bill. He said
conversations with other legislators lead him to believe the bill has
little support.

Kreiman's take on the bill is very similar to Miller's. He said
legalization of marijuana is the wrong message to send when the state
is fighting other drugs.

"I don't think the state should be in the business of legalizing
marijuana," Kreiman said. "We're in a fight right now against
methamphetamine, ecstasy and other illicit drugs."

Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, proposed the bill. It allows possession
and use of marijuana for glaucoma, nausea associated with chemotherapy
or radiation therapy, multiple sclerosis, hyperparathyroidism, nail
patella syndrome or AIDS. Any possession must be prescribed by a doctor.

Bolkcom said he brought the bill forward based on research and the
steps other states have taken to help their citizens.

"I think there's a growing awareness about the medical benefits
marijuana can have," he said. Bolkcom listed glaucoma, chemotherapy
and multiple sclerosis as a few cases in which marijuana seems to help
"There's a variety of conditions people can face. People in Iowa are
not immune to these diseases."

The debate is one not normally associated with Iowa.

Most states with medical marijuana laws are clustered in the west. The
12 states with medical marijuana laws are Alaska, Arizona, California,
Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont
and Washington. The city of Columbia, Mo., passed a local ordinance
designating marijuana crimes the lowest law enforcement priority in a
2004 election.

Medical marijuana is the subject of intense debate nationally. States
have squared off against the federal government, which maintains there
is no legitimate use for marijuana.

Two California residents, Angel Raich and Diane Monson, filed a
pre-emptive suit against the federal government to prevent their
prosecution for marijuana possession and cultivation. The federal
Ninth Circuit court granted them an injunction.

Bolkcom's bill caught one of the nation's largest marijuana reform
organizations by surprise. Kris Krane of the National Organization for
Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) said his group knew a medical
marijuana law in Iowa was likely this session. He was unaware the bill
had been filed.

Iowa isn't the first state most people think of when considering
marijuana laws. But Krane said medical marijuana is gaining ground

"You'd be surprised," he said. "Some people think this is a liberal
issue or a California issue. What we have found is that's not true."

Krane pointed to Montana's passage of a medical marijuana bill last
year with 61 percent voting in favor of it. The state also went
heavily in favor or President George Bush.

"Medical marijuana got more votes than President Bush in Montana,"
Krane said.

Bolkcom said NORML has not contacted him, though members of the
University of Iowa's Students for Sensible Drug Policy have. He said
other constituents have contacted him in support of the bill as well.

Both Miller and Krane said this is the first bill presented to the
Iowa legislature proposing legalization of medical marijuana. Neither
expects the bill to pass this year.

"Based solely on precedent, it's highly unlikely to pass on the first
time," Krane said.

Bolkcom said this is not the first time he has proposed legalization
of marijuana. It hasn't gone anywhere in past sessions and he doesn't
believe it will pass this year.

Miller said he believes the legislature will not accept a medical
marijuana bill. He pointed to past efforts to introduce bills allowing
industrial hemp growth.

Industrial hemp is the same plant used in medical marijuana. The
fibers are used to make cloth and rope. Miller said the industrial
variety has a much lower concentration of the active ingredients
sought by marijuana users, but concern over misuse still torpedoed the

Krane hopes for a hearing before the judiciary committee this year.
That's the same goal held by Bolkcom. The bill will go to a
subcommittee. Where it goes from there is undecided.

"I hope they meet and discuss whether or not to bring the bill to
debate before the full committee," Bolkcom said.

Miller said he is not surprised the issue was brought forward by a
legislator from one of Iowa's larger cities. He said Iowa City has a
constituency that is probably more open to medical marijuana than most
of the state.

"It doesn't surprise me that a bill like that is being introduced from
Iowa City," he said.

Kreiman said passage of a medical marijuana law sends mixed messages
to children.

"We tell our children 'don't smoke, don't do other drugs,'" he said.
"All the kids are going to see is 'this must not be a very harmful or
dangerous drug.'"

Bolkcom was the sole sponsor listed for SF 64 as of Wednesday.
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MAP posted-by: Larry Seguin