Pubdate: Thu, 04 Jun 2015
Source: Des Moines Register (IA)
Copyright: 2015 The Des Moines Register
Author: Tony Leys


Medical-marijuana advocates expressed frustration and exhaustion 
Wednesday, as the Legislature prepares to leave for the year without 
acting on the issue.

The activists held a Statehouse news conference to criticize 
Republican leaders of the Iowa House, who have not brought the 
proposal up for a debate.

"They didn't want to visit this issue. They don't really care about 
suffering Iowans, and it's really unfortunate," activist Sally Gaer 
of West Des Moines said. "...It boggles my mind that there's no 
compassion. They say they have compassion, but their actions don't 
show that they have compassion."

Gaer's adult daughter, Margaret, has severe epilepsy. Gaer helped 
lead a 2014 lobbying effort that resulted in a limited medical 
marijuana law, which allows Iowans with epilepsy to obtain permits to 
possess a special marijuana extract. The extract, which contains 
little of the marijuana chemical that makes users high, reportedly 
can limit brain seizures.

The 2014 law contains no provision for legal distribution of the 
medication in Iowa, and it doesn't allow for other uses, such as for 
the treatment of chronic pain, multiple sclerosis, cancer or 
post-traumatic stress disorder. Just 25 patients have applied for the 
program, though experts have said thousands could qualify.

Activists support a new bill, Senate File 484, which would expand 
legal medical uses of marijuana and would authorize a limited 
production and distribution system. Supporters say the bill would be 
stricter than most laws in the 24 states that have established 
full-fledged medical-marijuana programs.

The Democratic-controlled Iowa Senate passed the bill in April, but 
the Republican-controlled House has not taken it up. House leaders 
and Gov. Terry Branstad have said they don't want to expand the 
state's current medical-marijuana program until it has more time to 
become established.

House Republican spokeswoman Josie Albrecht declined comment 
Wednesday on the activists' allegations. However, she said House 
members were given an opportunity to decide whether to consider the 
proposal, and they voted against having a debate.

Activist Maria La France of Des Moines, whose son, Quincy, has severe 
epilepsy, said she'd become exhausted by the lobbying effort. Her son 
is now enrolled in a clinical trial of a pharmaceutical version of 
medical marijuana. She said she's been willing to lobby on behalf of 
other patients' needs, but she's become frustrated with lawmakers and 
with Iowans who have declined to help lobby for the bill despite 
their sometimes illegal use of the drug for medical purposes. "I 
think it's time for other Iowans to use their voice," she said.

The activists said it doesn't make sense that legislators voted to 
legalize fireworks, which are known to pose a safety hazard, but 
won't even debate legalizing medical marijuana.

"I am ashamed of them right now," said Connie Norgart of Urbandale, a 
retired nurse who wants to use marijuana to treat pain from post-polio syndrome.
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