Pubdate: Tue, 22 Jan 2013
Source: Daily Iowan, The (IA Edu)
Copyright: 2013 The Daily Iowan


Two months after Colorado and Washington became the first American 
states to legalize recreational use of marijuana, a proposal to 
reform Iowa's marijuana laws has come to the state House of Representatives.

Rep. Bruce Hunter, D-Des Moines, proposed the Medical Marijuana Act last week.

The Daily Iowan Editorial Board supports Hunter's push for medical 
marijuana in Iowa; the current legal framework around the drug in 
Iowa is untenable, and this proposal would be the first step toward 
improvement. Passage of the Medical Marijuana Act would also be a 
major victory for patients in Iowa who are currently deprived of a 
legitimate means of treating some particularly debilitating conditions.

The law would legalize the possession and use of marijuana for 
patients suffering from a number of diseases including cancer, HIV, 
AIDS, ALS, Alzheimer's, Crohn's disease, and glaucoma. Patients with 
chronic, "intractable" pain or a condition characterized by 
persistent nausea would also be eligible to receive a prescription 
for medical marijuana.

The bill also includes provisions for the establishment of a 
licensing system for eligible patients and for the creation of 
nonprofit suppliers to sell marijuana to those licensed to buy.

"At this point, there's no denying that marijuana helps alleviate the 
symptoms of a host of terrible diseases, many of which are 
notoriously difficult to treat," Hunter said in a statement released 
through the Marijuana Policy Project. "There is a wealth of 
scientific evidence demonstrating marijuana is significantly less 
addictive and has far fewer severe side effects than the opiates and 
other narcotics these patients are taking now."

The body of research concerning the efficacy of therapeutic marijuana 
and drugs derived from marijuana lends credence to Hunter's claims 
that such drugs have proved to be both effective and safe when used 

According to an extensive summary of evidence produced by the 
Washington, D.C.-based NORML Foundation - an organization devoted to 
reforming America's marijuana laws - cannabinoids (the class of 
chemical compounds that includes the chief psychoactive compound in 
marijuana) have a particularly impressive medicinal track record.

Cannabinoids have been shown to inhibit the growth of many types of 
cancers including breast cancer, skin cancer, and leukemia; they may 
also moderate the degenerative effects of autoimmune disorders.

For all its virtues, Hunter's act faces a virtually insurmountable 
set of obstacles in the state government. Republican speaker of the 
Iowa House Kraig Paulsen of Hiawatha said he has no interest in 
bringing a medical marijuana bill to a vote. Gov. Terry Branstad has 
used his Office of Drug Control Policy to advocate against marijuana 
legalization in any form.

Such opponents of medical marijuana typically argue that the alleged 
dangers of marijuana, as well as the drug's lack of FDA approval, 
make it an unfavorable alternative to traditional treatments.

These protestations are likely based more on personal biases than 
science. A meta-analysis conducted in 2010 by Arno Hazekamp and 
Franjo Grotenhermen at Leiden University in the Netherlands found 
that between 2005 and 2009, no fewer than 37 properly controlled 
studies were conducted to measure the therapeutic effects of 
medicinal cannabis. The collected research - of which there was more 
than enough to assuage doubts about a lack of FDA approval - pointed 
to marijuana as a safe and effective therapeutic remedy for a number 
of conditions, including chronic neuropathic pain, cancer, and 
multiple sclerosis.

The debate over the medical efficacy of marijuana has largely been 
settled: It's safe and it works. The Iowa legislators should set 
aside their preconceived notions on the subject and take up Hunter's 
Medical Marijuana Act. Eighteen states have moved to provide a little 
relief for their long-suffering patients; Iowa would do well to become the 19th.
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