Staff Editorial

Lawmakers in no rush to help sick Iowans

The Gazette

The House chamber at the State Capitol Building in Des Moines.
The Gazette The House chamber at the State Capitol Building in Des Moines.

Iowa’s medical cannabis laws are among the most dysfunctional in the nation, but Republican leaders have little sense of urgency for fixing the problem.

The legislative Studies Committee voted along party lines on Thursday, rejecting a proposal to convene an interim committee charged with studying the possibility of expanding Iowa’s medical cannabis program. That’s a painful setback for patients who could benefit from a workable medical marijuana program.

The vote came after Gov. Kim Reynolds vetoed a bipartisan bill that would have increased the allowable level of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, in medical products, which many patients and advocates say is necessary for effective treatment.

Thursday’s vote is a disappointing outcome. An interim committee could have studied policies to be voted on during next year’s legislative session.

In a letter sent this week to Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver and House Speaker Linda Upmeyer, two of the Legislature’s leading medical cannabis proponents explained the benefits an interim committee would offer:

• Provide a venue for patients and health care providers to give input to policymakers

• Promote science-based evidence, not personal feelings, in the legislative process

• Ensure a new bill is developed in public meetings, where Iowans can listen and participate

• Produce bipartisan legislation that will pass in the early days of the 2020 legislative session

It’s hard to comprehend how any thoughtful politician would object to such a process, but that’s exactly what Republican legislators did this week.

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“Too many Iowans have waited too long for an effective, affordable medical cannabis program,” Sen. Joe Bolkcom and and Rep. John Forbes, both Democrats, wrote in their letter to Republican leaders.

The situation is further complicated by a recent memo from Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, which explained commonly available over-the-counter cannabidiol, or CBD, products are illegal.

His interpretation is in line with statements from the governor and Iowa Department of Public Health officials, but it’s at odds with some cannabis advocates, business owners and lawyers, who say recent changes to state and federal hemp laws eased restrictions on hemp-derived cannabinoids, such as CBD.

It’s obvious that the Legislature needs to take action to address the confusion, and to provide stronger relief to suffering patients. Unfortunately, legislators just passed up an opportunity to expedite that process.

• Comments: (319) 398-8262; editorial@thegazette.com

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