Grassley is wrong on medical cannabis

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Erin Miller, guest columnist

Senator Chuck Grassley is moving too slowly.

Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to meet with our U.S. Senator from Iowa to discuss medical cannabis. Sen. Grassley was receptive to hearing about how my 4-year-old son Abram, who suffers from an extremely rare genetic mutation that causes seizures, has been able to find relief from cannabidiol (CBD), a non-psychoactive cannabis oil that has allowed my son to live seizure-free for over a year. My son’s quality of life has greatly improved in the last year because of this and we have managed to cut by three-fourths his prescription for a highly addictive benzodiazepine — an FDA “approved” psychoactive drug that was never tested or approved specifically for children under the age of 18.

Recently, Sen. Grassley introduced the Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act which would ease research barriers and exempt pediatric patients with intractable epilepsy and their parents/legal guardians from the penalties of the Controlled Substances Act for the possession and pediatric use of CBD. Though Sen. Grassley is sympathetic to pediatric epilepsy patients, adult epilepsy patients and patients with conditions other than intractable epilepsy would be excluded under this legislation. In addition, no amounts of the chemical compound tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are permitted. Though my son would be covered under this legislation, many other patients would be excluded and I worry where this type of legislation will lead us when our son is an adult and still in need of this medicine.

There is a large body of research supporting the efficacy of medical cannabis as a treatment for many other medical conditions such as Crohn’s Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, cancer, and chronic pain. Additionally, medical cannabis has been shown to be more effective when THC and CBD compounds are simultaneously present, a phenomenon known as the “entourage effect” – and the patients that use these compounds also deserve protection from federal prosecution.. Excluding protections for these patients is sending a message that somehow the lives of people with epilepsy matter more than those with other severe conditions.

Furthermore, Sen. Grassley has been ignoring a bill that would protect all Iowans who use medical cannabis from federal prosecution. The Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States (CARERS) Act, currently in the U.S. Senate, seeks to remedy the legal discrepancy between state and federal law, ensuring that any patient who uses medical cannabis in compliance with his or her state law is no longer vulnerable to federal prosecution.

Not only is Sen. Grassley avoiding taking action on this vital reform to protect all users of medical cannabis, he has perpetuated misunderstandings of the bill. In a recent statement, the Senator wrote that the CARERS Act would “make access to recreational marijuana much easier for people.” This is simply untrue, and he knows it. The CARERS Act is clearly focused on medical cannabis, not recreational marijuana. In a climate where 76 percent of Iowans support access to medical cannabis for those who qualify, why is Sen. Grassley lagging behind? The CARERS Act is about citizens who obey state law no longer living in fear of federal prosecution.

Lastly, the Senator has cited concerns about the banking provisions written into the CARERS bill. Sen. Grassley is entitled to these concerns, but rather than propose a weaker bill, he should talk to the CARERS bill’s co-sponsors, using his position as Judiciary Chair to reach a productive compromise. The sick and suffering families in our nation do not have the time to wait.

Sen. Grassley has stated that the government has to “ensure public safety and the effectiveness of drugs available for patients” and that it “shouldn’t delay medical innovations that could help children or others.” In this regard, I couldn’t agree more with the Senator. Supporting the CARERS Act through the Senate Judiciary Committee is the perfect opportunity for Sen. Grassley to help Iowa children and patients, while ensuring Iowa public safety while also making a major impact on our entire nation. He should swiftly take action on the matter.

• Erin Miller is an Iowa native and the mother of a medical cannabis user. She blogs about her family at http://ourabrammayhem.weebly.com

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