Wait to expand medical cannabis in Iowa

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Like many substance abuse professionals, I strongly support the research of cannabidiol (CBD) and marijuana in general, and research is happening! The general public may not know that there is CBD oil called Epidiolex going through the FDA medical protocols established to ensure the safety of medicine and to prove that the product works better than a placebo. Epidiolex is being studied at the U of I Hospitals and Clinics and 50 other sites across the nation. The first set of results from these double blind clinical studies came out on March 14. They were very positive, decreasing seizures in patients. The U’s study results are expected out by this fall. This CBD oil has little-to-no THC (the psychoactive ingredient). Too much THC can increase seizures.

The application for FDA approval has already been submitted. If the rest of the results come out as positively this year, then Epidiolex should be available through local pharmacies next year across the country. If Iowa passes legislation allowing manufacturers to come in and produce their own version of CBD oil with more THC, it would likely take as long or longer, with significantly more risks. This version of CBD oil would not have been through the scientific process mentioned earlier, so would not be considered pharmaceutical grade. It would not be available at our local pharmacies or eligible to be paid for with insurance plans. I feel it is unwise to start Iowa’s own “medical” marijuana program when a medical product with proven safety will likely be available next year.

I am one of many in the prevention and treatment community who have deep concerns about “medical” marijuana laws. If we start manufacturing and dispensing unproven marijuana-based products in Iowa, we will be entering a slippery slope. We have examples from several states who voted for marijuana as medicine in their state in the name of helping people who were very sick. Most of those legislators and voters would not have imagined at the time what these medical programs would turn into. Candy bars and pop are sold as medical edibles and put children at risk. The stricter “medical” programs that started in some states more recently are getting pressure to expand. Distributors profiting from addiction are pushing towards legalization. I empathize for those who feel marijuana-based medications may be their last hope to resolve their symptoms. However, further research is needed to ensure these products are proven effective before being used as medicine.

The real concern is where this is all headed. We do not want to see increased access to marijuana for Iowa’s kids. The high potency THC marijuana and marijuana-based products are extremely dangerous to our youth. There are over 3,000 youth in Iowa (ages 12-18) in substance abuse treatment with marijuana as their drug of choice. Marijuana of today is not only more addictive, it is also more damaging to brains causing IQ loss and mental illness in some. In our efforts to try to help a small number of Iowans, we could be risking overall public safety. Let’s consider ALL of Iowa’s kids. For more information see www.ifyoucareabout.org .

• Jennifer Husmann is a certified prevention specialist and project coordinator for the Jones County Safe and Healthy Youth Coalition. More information: www.jonescountycoalition.org

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