Pubdate: Sun, 12 Apr 2015
Source: Register, The (MA)
Copyright: 2015, Community Newspaper Co.


If you live in Iowa, a doctor can write you prescriptions to treat
numerous ailments. If you move to any other state, the same
medications will be available. That is how things work in a country
where the federal government, not state government, approves and
regulates drugs.

Then there is marijuana. Whether you can obtain that to treat a health
problem depends on where you live.

Many states have legalized marijuana or its derivatives for people
seeking to treat symptoms caused by serious illnesses, including
cancer. In Colorado, those aged 21 and older can buy it for personal
use. Last year Iowa law was changed to allow only people with severe
epilepsy to possess cannabidiol, an extract of the drug. Now some
state lawmakers want to expand access to other sick Iowans.


Iowa Senate weighs debate on medical marijuana Iowa lawmaker: Medical
marijuana is an FDA decision Medical marijuana request rebuffed by
pharmacy board

Yet using, selling and distributing marijuana are federal crimes with
sometimes severe penalties. The Controlled Substance Act considers
marijuana a dangerous and illegal drug with no medical benefit.

Welcome to the current hodge-podge of statutes where sick Americans
are simultaneously following state laws and breaking federal law to
alleviate debilitating pain, nausea or seizures. It's a legal and
medical mess.

Despite what some Americans think, the federal government is enforcing
laws on marijuana. Last year Congress passed an amendment ordering the
U.S. Department of Justice not to interfere with states implementing
laws allowing medicinal use of the drug. Earlier this month, a
spokesperson for the agency said it did not believe the amendment
applied to individuals or organizations. In fact, it recently
initiated forfeiture proceedings against dispensaries it considers

One Iowa parent told a Des Moines Register editorial writer about the
fear she experiences traveling to Colorado. She obtains marijuana to
make oil that helps control her epileptic child's seizures. The trip
means breaking laws.

MORE: Despite law, Iowans lack way to get medical marijuana

Matt and Kim Novy explain the effects epilepsy medication has on their
13-year-old twins and why they are optimistic about trying cannabis
oil. Kelsey Kremer/The Register

Her story underscores the fact that while state officials are
well-intentioned, it is the federal government's job to define what
drugs are legitimate medical treatments.

Congress is considering legislation that would reclassify marijuana
from a Schedule I drug, considered to have no medical application, to
Schedule II, which recognizes medical benefits. That would make it
easier for researchers to study the drug. This bill has bipartisan
support and should move forward.

More targeted scientific research approved by the U.S. Food and Drug
Administration is needed. Marijuana contains hundreds of different
chemical compounds, making it difficult for the average person to know
which one or which combination may be alleviating symptoms. While
proponents point to studies showing cannabidiol may reduce seizures in
children with severe epilepsy, there has not yet been a double-blind,
placebo-controlled, randomized study conducted. A researcher at the
University of Iowa will be overseeing such a study this spring.

RELATED: UI expert believes marijuana extract could help reduce

Americans rely on the FDA to subject drugs to foster a comprehensive,
research-based process to help ensure safety and efficacy. When a drug
is approved, the agency issues guidelines for use. The federal
government tracks adverse reactions. Medical schools teach about it
and pharmacists can answer questions about side effects.

None of that exists for marijuana. The raw plant "has not met the
safety and efficacy standards" of the FDA drug approval process,
according to the White House. Meanwhile, sick Iowans are obtaining it
and relying on websites for instructions for how to use it. State
lawmakers with no medical expertise deem as medicine a drug considered
illegal by Washington, D.C.

Legalizing and legitimizing marijuana to treat health problems
requires action from the federal government. Medical treatments should
be grounded in evidence, not politics. In 21st century America, that
evidence is obtained by subjecting a drug to comprehensive, scientific
studies overseen by an unbiased federal agency.

Iowans to be part of marijuana study

There is no shortage of research on marijuana and its components. But
not all studies are created equal.

For example, researchers may provide cannabidiol to all children with
severe epilepsy enrolled in a study and ask parents to monitor the
number and severity of seizures. Parents may overestimate the positive
impact of the drug. There has not yet been a double-blind,
placebo-controlled, randomized study on this marijuana extract for
children with severe epilepsy.

The University of Iowa's top expert on childhood epilepsy will soon be
part of one. Dr. Charuta Joshi is the principal investigator of
scientific trial of a version of the drug made by a British
pharmaceutical company. Iowa is one of several locations where
identical studies will be conducted. Such a study is considered the
"gold standard" of research because half the participants randomly
receive the real drug and half receive a placebo. This eliminates any
bias from participants, parents and researchers. Joshi said she will
not know who is receiving the real drug and who is not.

This study is part of the process a pharmaceutical company engages in
when seeking approval for a drug from the U.S. Food and Drug
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MAP posted-by: Matt