Let Iowans use medical marijuana

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As I sat through testimonies from Iowans who are out of medical options for themselves or their loved ones on Feb. 17 in the House Commerce Subcommittee, I began to cry. I could not stop. The suffering is deep. People want to live; they want to be healthy. The pharmaceutical industry has failed them. The drugs prescribed by their well-meaning physicians have made many of them worse, have brought on horrific side effects.

Two young children with cancer, out of chemotherapy options specific to their cancer, are having a dart board of treatments being thrown at them in last ditch efforts. For two years I have been at the Iowa Legislature meeting with elected officials attempting to educate them on the benefits of thoroughly studied cannabis to treat debilitating medical conditions. Many take the time to listen, to learn, but a few absolutely refuse.

They refuse to hear that teen marijuana use is down in states with medical cannabis programs. They refuse to learn that the many benefits of cannabis can be delivered through an oil, a cream or a patch. They hold tight to the thought that all people asking for medical cannabis are recreational users in disguise. They turn a blind eye to suffering.

In Iowa there were an estimated 133,000 people diagnosed with cancer in 2014. Seventeen Iowans die per day from cancer. Cannabis has been shown to kill cancer cells. Somehow, the bill now before the Ways and Means of the House only allows for cancer patients to have access to cannabis in Iowa if their practitioner has decided they have less than a year left to live. So I continue to cry.

This is no slippery slope if we help people in Iowa. This is compassion, this is Iowa nice, this is lifting up our neighbor and practicing the Golden Rule. We have met with our federal lawmakers. They also have the option to help Iowans.

So far, Representatives Rod Blum, Dave Loebsack and David Young have signed on to H.R. 1635, The Charlotte’s Web Medical Access Act. They believe in the right of doctor patient privilege. I asked Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio to sign on and help us on the Federal level as they campaigned in Iowa. Sen. Cruz told me, “it’s a states’ issue.” He told me twice when I told him we needed his help to reschedule cannabis. I have met with Senators Joni Ernst and Chuck Grassley, in Washington, D.C. and in Iowa. They have yet to sign on to help on a federal level. Americans continue to be diagnosed with Epilepsy, MS, ALS, Ehlers Danlos. They continue to endure pain that cannot be touched with traditional pain medication. Our vets suffer from PTSD from their service to keep us free, and a host of other ailments that can be treated with cannabis. Still, we wait for our legislators to act. All it takes is an education. Residents of 23 states, representing 85 percent of the population of the United States, have access to medical cannabis. And in Iowa, I cry.

• Sally Gaer, of West Des Moines, is a graduate of the University of Kentucky and mother to Jacob, 28, and Margaret, 26, who has Dravet syndrome. Her husband is West Des Moines Mayor Steven Gaer. She has advocated for a medical cannabis program in Iowa since December 2013. Comments: salgalia2@gmail.com

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