New medical marijuana bill emerges in Iowa Senate (AUDIO)

A bill that would let Iowa doctors prescribe marijuana as treatment for 18 “debilitating” conditions cleared an initial hurdle this morning and is on a fast track in the Iowa Senate.

“We are interested in making law,” Senator Charles Schneider, a Republican from West Des Moines, said this morning. “This is not just a ‘statement’ bill. This is something that we would like to get through the House and down ot the governor’s desk.”

The Senate Appropriations Committee is likely to vote on the bill later today. Two women who’ve been lobbying on the issue for the past few years gave emotional testimony this morning during a subcommittee hearing. Carrie Anderson of Grimes has multiple sclerosis and hopes to get a prescription for marijuana to see if it will stop the progression of the disease.

“When you live with a chronic disease, you look for any flicker of hope. You hold onto it with all of your might, looking for ways to live your best possible life,” Anderson said. “I’m not here to say medical cannabis is for me or for anyone else. I am here to say it should be an allowable option for our medical teams.”

Anderson said lobbying for legalization of marijuana for medical use has been emotionally draining.

“I’m here to plead with you to give us hope…with the benefit of a plant that is medicine,” Anderson said. “Please let us have this responsible option and give us this chance.”

Sally Gaer of West Des Moines mentioned two women who’d lobbied legislators on the issue, but have died of cancer.

“Please move this bill quickly. Thank you from the bottom of my heart,” Gaer said, her voice cracking.

AUDIO of senate subcommittee hearing, 40:00

Gaer was among a group of mothers who successfully lobbied to get possession of cannabis oil legalized here in Iowa back in 2014. Her daughter’s chronic seizures have been dramatically reduced, but the family would like to try marijuana additives that may help even more.

Tom Swegle, the CEO of MedCara Pharmaceuticals, told senators the industry’s concerned about a section of the bill that would let Iowans get medical cannabis from Minnesota until Iowa’s grow and dispense operations are up and running.

“While the feds have given a pass to states to create their own medical cannabis laws…having language such as this with a clear violation of the interstate commerce clause…we feel will get the attention of the feds,” Swegle said. “We already know Jeff Sessions is not a fan of medical cannabis and this might give him an excuse to make Iowa an example of how he’s going to come in and crack down on medical cannabis and I don’t think we want that to be the national headlines.”

Supporters of the move say it will give Iowans with a prescription somewhere to get cannabis oil, tablets or other marijuana-infused products while the system for growing and dispensing medical marijuana is set up in Iowa. The bill does not allow doctors to prescribe marijuana cigarettes however. Jason Crane of Iowa Patients for Medical Marijuana called that “insane.”

“There are certain people who cannot breathe or function without a puff,” Crame said. “Their body does not function well enough, because they are sick, to digest the cannabis so they need that instant relief that can only come through smoking. Please do not take that off the table in order to fight some kind of misguided value war.”

One senator admitted there was “snickering” when lawmakers first began to discuss medical marijuana several years ago, but after speaking with advocates, the senate appears poised to act.

Here’s the list of the conditions included in this latest medical marijuana bill:

“Debilitating medical condition” means any of the following:

a. Cancer, if the underlying condition or treatment produces one or more of the following: Intractable pain, Nausea or severe vomiting, Cachexia or severe wasting.

b. Multiple sclerosis.

c. Epilepsy or seizure disorders.

d. AIDS or HIV as defined in section 141A.1.

e. Glaucoma.

f. Hepatitis C.

g. Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.

h. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

i. Ehlers-Danlos syndrome.

j. Post-traumatic stress disorder.

k. Tourette’s syndrome.

l. Any terminal illness, with a probable life expectancy of under one year, if the illness or its treatment produces one or more of the following:  Intractable pain, Nauseas or severe vomiting, Cachexia or severe wasting.

m. Intractable pain.

n. Parkinson’s disease.

o. Muscular dystrophy.

p. Huntington’s disease.

q. Alzheimer’s disease.

r. Complex regional pain syndrome, type I and II.

s. Rheumatoid arthritis.

t. Any other chronic or debilitating disease or medical condition or its medical treatment approved by the department

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