Pubdate: Wed, 04 Nov 2009
Source: Omaha World-Herald (NE)
Copyright: 2009 Omaha World-Herald Company
Author: Elizabeth Ahlin
Note: author is a World-Herald Staff Writer
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal - United
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)
Bookmark: (Cannabis)


COUNCIL BLUFFS -- Jacqueline Patterson took a deep breath and stared
straight out at the crowd.

With stops, starts and pauses, she struggled to free the sounds that
were hindered by a lifelong stutter.

"I have been on many prescription medications," said Patterson, a
31-year-old from California. "Those did not assist me in controlling
my stutter nearly as effectively as cannabis."

The former Iowa resident has used marijuana off and on since she was
14 to treat her stutter and cerebral palsy symptoms.

When she uses marijuana, she said, the severity of her stutter
decreases by about 90 percent. But, she said, doing so makes her a
criminal in most states, including Iowa and Nebraska, and in the eyes
of the federal government. Medical marijuana is legal in California.

The Iowa Board of Pharmacy held its fourth and final public hearing on
medical marijuana Wednesday in Council Bluffs.

Statements ranged from personal to professional on the topic, which
Terry Witkowski, executive officer of the board, called a "sensitive
medical, social and political issue."

The board could make a recommendation to the Legislature based on the
four hearings and a scientific review.

The Council Bluffs forum came amid national debate on the

In Tuesday's elections, Maine became the fifth state to allow
regulated marijuana dispensaries to grow the drug and sell it to
patients. The Obama administration said in recent weeks that it would
not target patients or marijuana dispensaries if they were following
state law.

The Board of Pharmacy has been ordered by a Polk County judge to
consider a petition to take marijuana off Iowa's Schedule I drug list.
Schedule I drugs are ones that are thought to have a high risk of
abuse and that do not have a safe medical purpose.

If the drug is reclassified, it could boost a bill sponsored by State
Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, that would legalize the drug for
medical purposes. The bill stalled this year, but Bolkcom hopes it
will receive more support in the 2010 session.

Speakers addressed board members Ed Maier of Mapleton and Susan Frey
of Villisca as well as Witkowski.

The board heard from representatives of two Omaha-based groups who
argued strongly against the legalization of marijuana for any reason.

Paul Carter, executive director of PRIDE-Omaha, a group that fights
drug and alcohol use by young people, urged the board to look beyond
emotional tales like Patterson's.

"Marijuana is dangerous," Carter said. "It's an addictive drug, and it
has no medical value."

He asked the board to think about the message that marijuana as
medicine would send to children.

"Is the message that marijuana is OK, because someone can smoke it and
feel better?" he asked.

Jeff Elton of Des Moines suffers from diabetes-induced gastroparesis
or "paralyzed stomach," a disorder that affects the stomach's ability
to empty its contents.

As a result, Elton has chronic nausea and vomiting, which he has not
been able to manage with approved medications.

Inhaling marijuana vapors helps his nausea subside, Elton said.
"Please do the compassionate and the right thing."

Susie Dugan said the board's decision should be based on more than
"anecdotal accounts of benefits."

Dugan is former executive director of PRIDE-Omaha and a representative
of the affiliated Drug Watch International.

If the compounds found in marijuana have medicinal benefits, she said,
they should be isolated and developed into drugs.

"We don't chew the foxglove plant to get digitalis, a drug used to
treat heart disease. We don't drink the urine of pregnant horses to
get estrogen replacement. We don't eat moldy bread to get penicillin,"
said Dugan.

"Sick people should not smoke a crude weed and call it medical

The board said it will base its decision on several criteria,
including marijuana's potential for abuse, its pharmacological
effects, current scientific knowledge and the risk, if any, that
reclassifying the drug would pose to public health.
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