Iowa Board of Pharmacy recommends rescheduling marijuana
Published: Monday, February 22, 2010
Updated: Monday, February 22, 2010 12:02
Iowans might have to wait until 2011 to hear the fate of medical marijuana in Iowa.
On Feb. 17, after reviewing testimony from four public hearings and reading through more than 10,000 pages of submitted material, members of the Iowa Board of Pharmacy unanimously voted to recommend that the Iowa legislature remove marijuana from Schedule I of the Iowa Controlled Substances Act, which "has no accepted medical use," and place it in Schedule II, which states that it "has currently accepted medical use."
It also proposed that the legislature put together a task force comprised of patients, medical experts and law enforcement officials to advise legislatures on the administration of a medical marijuana program.
The decision came a week after the Feb. 10 cutoff date to submit rescheduling recommendations to the Controlled Substances Act, meaning that legislatures will have to wait until next year to vote on the issue.
However, Carl Olsen, founder of Iowans for Medical Marijuana, said several legislators are working to get the medical marijuana task force off the ground by the end of the legislative session in March.
If approved by the legislature in 2011, moving marijuana to Schedule II may allow Iowa patients using marijuana to treat or cope with certain medical conditions to claim a medical necessity defense in court. It would also make Iowa the first state to go against federal scheduling of marijuana.
Some, including Olsen, speculate that a conflict between state and federal scheduling of marijuana could lead to a change in drug policy at the national level. Under the federal Controlled Substances Act, marijuana is considered a Schedule I drug which "has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States."
"This is a huge win for (patients)," said Jimmy Morrison, grassroots organizer for the Marijuana Policy Project. "The pharmaceutical experts have reviewed the science and they support us. I see no reason that, in time, the legislature won't support us as well."
Morrison also said that rescheduling would not get marijuana to patients, but that "it's a step in the right direction."
Iowa Board of Pharmacy Executive Director Lloyd Jessen said he doesn't know if the legislature will vote to reschedule marijuana or not because "it's a highly controversial subject."
Clel Baudler, Iowa representative and former Iowa State Patrol officer, called the board's decision "ridiculous."
"I thought they were smarter than that," Baudler said. "This is nothing but a sham to legalize marijuana (for recreational use) ... If the country is so hooked on feel(ing) good, something is wrong with this country."
The Governor's Office of Drug Control Policy associate director Dale Woolery expressed concern about how rescheduling marijuana could change youth perceptions toward marijuana.
"I think we need to be very cautious when moving ahead," said Woolery.
He hesitated to use the term "medical marijuana" when talking about the board's recommendation. He noted that the consensus of research cited on the ODCP Web site does not support "smoked marijuana" as medicine.
The board's recommendation came shortly after an Iowa poll published by the Des Moines Register found that 64 percent of Iowans support medical marijuana for patients with a doctor's approval. The poll also found that 28 percent of Iowans support allowing marijuana use for recreational purposes.
Olsen commented that the board's decision reflects the general sentiment of Iowans.
"The elected officials and the Board of Pharmacy appointed by those elected officials are all voices of the public," he said. "The public is not stupid, they're not misinformed, they're not wrong. They have good reason to be in favor of (rescheduling marijuana)."