What is Medical Cannabis?

Dr. Steven Jenison, a public health physician who served as the first Medical Director to the New Mexico Medical Cannabis Program, explains it all in educational forums hosted by Iowans 4 Medical Cannabis across 3 Iowa cities.

Tuesday, October 6th 6:30-8 P.M. CST

Iowa Western Community College
2700 College Rd, Council Bluffs, IA 51503
Room: Pod 16, Looft Hall Facility
RSVP on Facebook

Wednesday, October 7th 6:30-8 P.M. CST

Mason City Public Library
225 2nd St SE, Mason City, IA 50401
Room: main meeting room
RSVP on Facebook

Thursday, October 8th 6:30-8 P.M. CST

Cedar Falls Public Library
524 Main St, Cedar Falls, IA 50613
Room: small conference room
RSVP on Facebook

The I4MC coalition supports legislation that will allow controlled access to safe, affordable medical cannabis within Iowa to reduce the suffering of Iowans living with debilitating chronic conditions


Iowa Hemp Association

“Fields of Opportunity Industrial Hemp Educational Tour!”

Saturday, October 10, 2015, 10:30 AM to 1 PM

Fort Dodge Public Library, 424 Central Ave, Fort Dodge, Iowa 50501
Mark your calendars:

“Federalism: The Missing Piece of the Puzzle!”

Saturday, October 31, 2015, 1 PM to 4 PM
Community Room, Mickle Center, 1620 Pleasant St., Des Moines, IA 50314
We are suggesting a $25 donation. No one will be turned away. Donations are completely voluntary. If you prefer to donate to Iowans 4 Medical Cannabis that is fine with us.
What next? We look forward to seeing you at our conference!

My Meeting with Congressman Young

Meet­ing with Con­gress­man Young — 9/22/2015

I met with Con­gress­man David Young (R. IA-3) on Tues­day, Sep­tem­ber 22, 2015, at 11:00 a.m. I gave him a series of doc­u­ments and had a short dis­cus­sion on each one. I asked him a few ques­tions. One of the things that impressed me right away is that he remem­bered meet­ing me at a leg­isla­tive forum with my state Sen­a­tor Jack Whitver and my state Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Kevin Koester back in Jan­u­ary of 2015 shortly after he took office. He remem­bered what I was wear­ing that day. So, this shows the impor­tance of attend­ing local leg­isla­tive forums. Know­ing your state sen­a­tor and state rep­re­sen­ta­tive can be help­ful when you are talk­ing to your fed­eral con­gress person.


Con­gress­man David Young

The first document

The first doc­u­ment I gave him is the set of con­di­tions for each of the five sched­ules in the Con­trolled Sub­stances Act. I under­lined the phrase “accepted med­ical use in treat­ment in the United States” in each of the five sec­tions and I asked Con­gress­man Young if there is any con­nec­tion between this phrase and forty (40) state med­ical mar­i­juana laws. He said he was unsure. So, this is crit­i­cal. By say­ing he was unsure, he gave me the oppor­tu­nity to explain it to him. I can­not stress how impor­tant this is as the ini­tial step.

The sec­ond document

The sec­ond doc­u­ment I gave him is the admin­is­tra­tive process for chang­ing the sched­ules and some court cases that explain my inter­pre­ta­tion. First I pointed out that phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal drugs going through the FDA pipeline are resched­uled at the request of the U.S. Attor­ney Gen­eral and the U.S. Sec­re­tary of Health and Human Ser­vices. I pointed out that sub­stances do not resched­ule them­selves. Some­one starts the process. He men­tioned Con­gress at that point, because Con­gress can change the sched­ules leg­isla­tively. But, that still leaves the ques­tion of “any inter­ested party.” The admin­is­tra­tive process also allows any inter­ested party to ini­ti­ate the process. So, by process of elim­i­na­tion, we know that sub­stances that are resched­uled by Con­gress or at the request of an inter­ested party are not going through the FDA pipeline for approval as med­i­cine. Any process to resched­ule as the result of going through the FDA pipeline will be ini­ti­ated by the U.S. Attor­ney Gen­eral and the U.S. Sec­re­tary of Health and Human Ser­vices. So, I asked him, “What hap­pens when a state accepts the med­ical use of mar­i­juana? Who ini­ti­ates the process to have it removed from fed­eral sched­ule 1?” Two state have ini­ti­ated the process, but only as an after­thought years later and nei­ther of them has resched­uled at the state level. The peti­tion ini­ti­ated by the states of Wash­ing­ton and Rhode Island was filed in Novem­ber of 2011 and is still cur­rently pend­ing with the DEA. So, I made the argu­ment that the states are negle­gent for fail­ure to inti­ate the fed­eral resched­ul­ing process. Who else is going to do it if not a state that has legal­ized the med­ical use of marijuana?

Then I told him there were fed­eral court cases that say accepted med­ical use under fed­eral sched­ul­ing can be accepted intrastate use of a con­trolled sub­stance with­out any inter­state mar­ket­ing, prov­ing that state laws are rel­e­vant to the phrase “accepted med­ical use in treat­ment in the United States.”

The third document

The third doc­u­ment I gave him is an amend­ment by Sen­a­tor Whitver that he never actu­ally filed. I asked Sen­a­tor Whitver, who is my leg­is­la­tor in the Iowa Sen­ate, to file an amend­ment to a med­ical mar­i­juana bill, SF 484, telling the fed­eral gov­ern­ment that we are reclas­si­fy­ing mar­i­juana as med­i­cine under fed­eral law by enact­ing a state law accept­ing the med­ical use of mar­i­juana. Sen­a­tor Whitver is a Repub­li­can and Con­gress­man Young is a Repub­li­can. They know each other. I told him that this doc­u­ment proves how per­sua­sive my argu­ment is.

The fourth document

The fourth doc­u­ment I gave him is the enforce­ment sec­tions in the three inter­na­tional treaties where there is an excep­tion to the enforce­ment for con­sti­tu­tional due process. I asked him if the laws enacted in the states, includ­ing the ones that fully legal­ize mar­i­juana for non-medical use, are con­sti­tu­tional. He said the fed­eral gov­ern­ment has never stepped in to inter­fere with the enact­ment or the imple­men­ta­tion of those law. I reminded him that the the fed­eral gov­ern­ment actu­ally did try to inter­fere in Cal­i­for­nia but lost the case in fed­eral court. He reminded me that it hap­pened under the first Bush Admin­is­tra­tion. So, we both agreed that it looks like these laws are con­sti­tu­tional. If they are con­sti­tu­tional, then they are exempt from the three inter­na­tional drug treaties and there is no fail­ure to com­ply with those treaties. The rea­son I brought this up is because there are some old court cases before states began accept­ing the med­ical use of mar­i­juana that said the treaties do not allow mar­i­juana to be placed in a sched­ule lower than 2. Those old court cases are no longer rel­e­vant since we are now talk­ing about activ­ity that is exempt from those treaties.

The fifth, sixth, sev­enth, and eighth documents

The next series of doc­u­ments I handed him are four bills pend­ing in the U.S. House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, and he is a co-sponsor of one of them, H.R. 1635.

I said it was a shame that H.R. 1635 expires after 3 years and asked him how pro­duc­ers were going to get excited about invest­ing in this process when it all just dis­ap­pears after three years. I asked him how that will help the patients. He said it would most likely be renewed before it expires and this is just Con­gress’ way of dip­ping its toe in the water. I agreed it was bet­ter than noth­ing. He said he had not seen H.R. 525 and would prob­a­bly have no prob­lem co-sponsoring it. I said I would appre­ci­ate his sup­port on any or all of these bills. I did point out that I like H.R. 1774 bet­ter than the oth­ers because it does not pre-determine the out­come after remov­ing mar­i­juana from sched­ule 1. I said I don’t like the part where it says the fed­eral admin­is­tra­tive agen­cies must pick one of the other sched­ules. I think all options should be left open, includ­ing remov­ing mar­i­juana from all of the sched­ules. Let’s have a fair process and let’s not pre-determine the out­come. We did agree this issue is build­ing momen­tum from both a med­ical and non-medical per­spec­tive and is not going away.

The ninth, tenth, eleventh documents

We then had a dis­cus­sion on whether mar­i­juana has accepted med­ical use from a med­ical and phar­ma­co­log­i­cal per­spec­tive. He said there were no stud­ies show­ing accepted med­ical use of mar­i­juana. I took the oppor­tu­nity to point out that opium plants and coca plants have no accepted med­ical use in the sense that they are not FDA approved pre­scrip­tion prod­ucts, and yet both of those plants are in sched­ule 2, not sched­ule 1. I said THC in a pill is in sched­ule 3, but the plant it comes from is in sched­ule 1. The drugs made from opium and coca plants are mostly in sched­ule 2. So, I told him the plant does not have to have any greater accepted med­ical value than opium or coca plants to inval­i­date its cur­rent sched­ule 1 sta­tus. I then handed him three more documents.

Sum­ming up

Some­where dur­ing our con­ver­sa­tion, I summed up by say­ing that states were enact­ing laws allow­ing patients to grow mar­i­juana at home because of the fed­eral government’s absurd sched­ul­ing of the plant. What are the states sup­posed to do when the fed­eral gov­ern­ment says this is not legal and won’t coop­er­ate? It would be like grow­ing car­rots. If you’re grow­ing car­rots to stay healthy, you just want some car­rots in the gar­den. If you have a debil­i­tat­ing med­ical con­di­tion and you want a spe­cial­ized car­rot that tar­gets that par­tic­u­lar con­di­tion, you may want to get some help with the selec­tion of the right car­rots as well as the con­trolled envi­ron­ment for grow­ing those car­rots. Med­i­cine and food are dif­fer­ent in that way. If you eat right, maybe you can avoid the med­i­cine. But when you need some­thing stronger and you’re weaker, it should be there for you.

Posted in Federal, States | 2 Comments

Federalism: the missing piece in state medical marijuana laws

Carl Olsen

Carl Olsen is a med­ical mar­i­juana advo­cate in the state of Iowa. In 2008 he suc­cess­fully peti­tioned the Iowa Board of Phar­macy to rec­om­mend the reclas­si­fi­ca­tion of mar­i­juana in Iowa.

At first glance, state med­ical mar­i­juana laws seem to con­flict with fed­eral law. But that seems odd, because the fed­eral gov­ern­ment has never attempted to block state med­ical mar­i­juana leg­is­la­tion. Why is that?

When Con­gress wrote the fed­eral Con­trolled Sub­stances Act, it placed mar­i­juana in some­thing called a sched­ule. A sched­ule is just another name for a clas­si­fi­ca­tion. There are five fed­eral sched­ules and most states also have them. Now, there’s your first clue. States also have them. Why would states have them if the fed­eral gov­ern­ment is clas­si­fy­ing con­trolled substances?

If we take a look at state sched­ules, like the ones in Iowa, we find that there is no require­ment they be syn­chro­nized with the fed­eral sched­ules. That seems odd. Or, is it inten­tional? Is this actu­ally a layer of pro­tec­tion, rec­og­niz­ing that local gov­ern­ment knows what is best for the peo­ple it serves?

What is miss­ing is an under­stand­ing of these ques­tions. States do not appear to under­stand their rights under the fed­eral drug law.

Con­gress cre­ated a process for the reclas­si­fi­ca­tion of con­trolled sub­stances, so we def­i­nitely know those clas­si­fi­ca­tions are not per­ma­nent by any means. So, maybe the states will know when those clas­si­fi­ca­tions need to change before the fed­eral gov­ern­ment gets around to updat­ing them.

We all know the fed­eral gov­ern­ment approves new pre­scrip­tion prod­ucts and adds those to the sched­ules, so that’s one way the sched­ules change. There is a pre­scrip­tion prod­uct called Mari­nol that the fed­eral gov­ern­ment placed in sched­ule 2 in 1986 and then moved to sched­ule 3 in 1999, so this is an exam­ple of how that process works.

In fact, in order to make that change, the fed­eral gov­ern­ment actu­ally had to get an inter­na­tional sched­ule amended. In 1991, at the request of the United States, the United Nations moved THC from sched­ule 1 of the 1971 Con­ven­tion on Psy­chotropic Sub­stances to sched­ule 2 of that convention.

So, here is what the Con­trolled Sub­stances Act says about who can request a change to the fed­eral schedules:

Pro­ceed­ings for the issuance, amend­ment, or repeal of such rules may be ini­ti­ated by the Attor­ney Gen­eral (1) on his own motion, (2) at the request of the Sec­re­tary, or (3) on the peti­tion of any inter­ested party.

Title 21, United States Code, Sec­tion 811(a). So, we know Mari­nol was resched­uled by the Attor­ney Gen­eral and the Sec­re­tary of Health and Human Ser­vices. But, who is an inter­ested party? Could this mys­te­ri­ous party be a state?

Let’s exam­ine some fed­eral case law to see if we can find an answer:

Unlike the CSA sched­ul­ing restric­tions, the FDCA inter­state mar­ket­ing pro­vi­sions do not apply to drugs man­u­fac­tured and mar­keted wholly intrastate. Com­pare 21 U.S.C. § 801(5) with 21 U.S.C. § 321 (b), 331, 355(a). Thus, it is pos­si­ble that a sub­stance may have both an accepted med­ical use and safety for use under med­ical super­vi­sion, even though no one has deemed it nec­es­sary to seek approval for inter­state marketing.

Grin­spoon v. DEA, 828 F.2d 881, 887 (1st Cir. 1987). So, med­ical use can be intrastate, rather than inter­state. And, what this court is say­ing is that accepted intrastate use of a sub­stance means it can­not be clas­si­fied under fed­eral law as hav­ing no accepted med­ical use in treat­ment in the United States. So how can this be? We have forty (40) states that have accepted the med­ical use of mar­i­juana, and three (3) fed­eral juris­dic­tion, DC, Guam, and Puerto Rico. But, here’s the answer: not one of these states or fed­eral juris­dic­tions has noti­fied the fed­eral gov­ern­ment under 21 U.S.C. § 811(a) that mar­i­juana has accepted med­ical use in treat­ment in the United States. In other words, Mari­nol did not just mag­i­cally resched­ule itself. Some­one ini­ti­ated the process. And we know who ini­ti­ated the process: the fed­eral gov­ern­ment. So, what about state governments?

This fail­ure by state gov­ern­ments to ini­ti­ate fed­eral resched­ul­ing of mar­i­juana has resulted in some really neg­a­tive con­se­quences. For exam­ple, a quad­ri­plegic man in Col­orado lost his job for using med­ical mar­i­juana out­side of the work place in full com­pli­ance with Col­orado law. The Col­orado Supreme Court ruled that the med­ical use of mar­i­juana is not legal in Col­orado because of fed­eral sched­ul­ing. Bran­don Coats v. Dish Net­work, LLC, Supreme Court Case No. 13SC394, Supreme Court of Col­orado, 2015 CO 44, 350 P.3d 849 (June 15, 2015). Another quad­ri­plegic man in Michi­gan lost his job for using med­ical mar­i­juana out­side the work place in full com­pli­ance with Michi­gan law. The U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that the med­ical use of mar­i­juana is not legal in Michi­gan because of fed­eral sched­ul­ing. Casias v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., No. 11–1227, United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Cir­cuit, 2012 U.S. App. LEXIS 23969 (Octo­ber 26, 2012).

It would be absurd to think that vot­ers and leg­is­la­tors in states that have legal­ized the med­ical use of mar­i­juana would think that it has no med­ical use under fed­eral law, so we can assume this is an over­sight and a fail­ure to under­stand the fed­eral Con­trolled Sub­stances Act. It’s time that states started address­ing fed­eral sched­ul­ing in their state med­ical mar­i­juana laws.

Here in Iowa, we have a bill pend­ing in the Iowa House, SF 484, that would actu­ally resched­ule mar­i­juana under state law, but it says absolutely noth­ing about fed­eral sched­ul­ing. It’s time a state got it right and pro­tected the peo­ple it says it is try­ing to help. Unless we want to see the weak­est among us tricked into expos­ing them­selves as fed­eral crim­i­nals, we need to say it loud and clear. We are resched­ul­ing this med­i­cine under both state and fed­eral clas­si­fi­ca­tions. It’s very clear from read­ing 21 U.S.C. § 811(a) that a notice to the fed­eral gov­ern­ment is required by the fed­eral Con­trolled Sub­stances Act and the state must give that notice when it legal­izes mar­i­juana for med­ical use.

Posted in Federal, States | 13 Comments

Martin O’Malley will declassify marijuana as a schedule 1 drug

On July 31, 2015, Mar­tin O’Malley released his white paper on Crim­i­nal Jus­tice Reform, which says, “As pres­i­dent, Gov­er­nor O’Malley will: … Declas­sify Mar­i­juana as a Sched­ule I Drug.”

Martin O'Malley speaking to Eastern Iowa Democrats in July of 2015.

Mar­tin O’Malley speak­ing to East­ern Iowa Democ­rats in July of 2015.

But, the sen­tence imme­di­ately fol­low­ing that one is less clear, “O’Malley will direct the Attor­ney Gen­eral to move to reclas­sify mar­i­juana, while sup­port­ing bipar­ti­san con­gres­sional efforts to leg­isla­tively reclas­sify mar­i­juana as a Sched­ule II drug.”

The week before this white paper was released I got a call from a field orga­nizer for O’Malley, Kennedy Bre­anne Green, who asked me to meet her for lunch on Mon­day, August 3, 2015.  I told Kennedy I would only meet with her if the topic was marijuana’s scheduling.

When I met with Kennedy, she showed me the white paper, and sure enough it says Mar­tin O’Malley will declas­sify mar­i­juana.  Unfor­tu­nately, the sen­tence imme­di­ately after that seems to wig­gle.  I told Kennedy I was uncom­fort­able with the words “move to.”  I said it should just say “O’Malley will direct the Attor­ney Gen­eral to reclas­sify mar­i­juana.”  Kennedy said she would try to get some clarification.

On Fri­day, August 7, 2015, I got a call from Mar­tin O’Malley’s son Will.  He agreed with me and said he would try to get clar­i­fi­ca­tion from his father.  Later that day, I got a call telling me that Jor­dan Sabine, a field orga­nizer from the O’Malley cam­paign would meet me for lunch on Tues­day, August 11, 2015.  How­ever, the field orga­nizer, Kiera, who showed up on Tues­day was not Jor­dan Sabine and Kiera had no idea what I had been talk­ing to Kennedy and Will about.

So, I’m not exactly encour­aged by this.  It sounds to me like O’Malley is wig­gling.  On the other hand, I haven’t seen any­thing as encour­ag­ing as this from any of the other can­di­dates.  O’Malley just might get my sup­port on cau­cus night, but I’m still con­sid­er­ing my options.


Posted in Federal | 1 Comment

How to stop the annoying candidate calls

I’ve found a sim­ple way to cut down on annoy­ing cam­paign calls from can­di­dates run­ning for president.


Results from August 19, 2015, Pub­lic Pol­icy Polling Sur­vey in North Carolina

Start out with a sim­ple ques­tion. Does mar­i­juana have accepted med­ical use in treat­ment in the United States?

If the answer is no, then the can­di­date has been sleep­ing for the past 20 years.

If the answer is yes, then the next ques­tion is equally sim­ple. Will you sign an exec­u­tive order remov­ing mar­i­juana from sched­ule 1?

If the answer is no, then the can­di­date is unqual­i­fied to be chief of the exec­u­tive branch of government.

When Con­gress wrote the fed­eral drug law in 1970, one of the con­di­tions it placed on sched­ule 1 is that sub­stances in that sched­ule must con­tinue to have no accepted med­ical use in treat­ment in the United States or be removed from that sched­ule by the exec­u­tive branch. Mar­i­juana was placed in sched­ule 1, even though it had been accepted for med­ical use in the United States up until 1942 when it was removed from the U.S. Pharmacopea.

Since 1996, 24 states have legal­ized the med­ical use of mar­i­juana and another 16 have enacted laws rec­og­niz­ing med­ical use for extracts made from the plant. Three fed­eral juris­dic­tions have also accepted the med­ical use of mar­i­juana, DC, Guam, and Puerto Rico. This is legally suf­fi­cient for the pres­i­dent to remove mar­i­juana from sched­ule 1 by exec­u­tive order.

I’ve found that ask­ing this ques­tion of the can­di­dates is a guar­an­teed way to make them stop calling.

Try it your­self and see.

Posted in Federal | Leave a comment

Facebook Commandos

For those of you who use Face­book, I have pity on you.  It’s not a friendly place.  Today, peo­ple call­ing them­selves advo­cates for full legal­iza­tion of mar­i­juana in Iowa are com­plain­ing about two groups we have here in Iowa and the com­plaints are sim­i­lar toward both groups.
  1. You have a group called Iowans 4 Med­ical Cannabis advo­cat­ing for med­ical use, say­ing that it won’t lead to legal­iza­tion of non-medical use.
  2. You have a group called Iowa Hemp Asso­ci­a­tion advo­cat­ing for indus­trial use, say­ing it won’t lead to legal­iza­tion for non-industrial use.

This makes these so-called advo­cates angry, because they see med­ical use and indus­trial use as sub­sets of a greater whole (full legal­iza­tion).  Full legal­iza­tion would give the patients their med­i­cine and save the trees at the same time.  I won’t go into what full legal­iza­tion looks like, because I don’t really know what it looks like.  Alco­hol is not fully legal­ized.  Tobacco is not fully legal­ized.  Alco­hol and tobacco are both toxic and mar­i­juana is not, so I can’t see them as being the same.  Even cocaine and mor­phine are legal under cer­tain restric­tions.  Even metham­phet­a­mine is legal under cer­tain restric­tions.  So, I think we need to come up with some­thing unique for mar­i­juana, since mar­i­juana is safer than all of these things we already accept under cer­tain restrictions.

What dri­ves med­ical advo­cates is that they are being tor­tured by the phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal indus­try.  Med­ical users are being forced to use toxic chem­i­cals instead of a safe plant.  I don’t know about you, but I can’t take what a per­son being tor­tured says as seri­ously as I take what a per­son says who has time and the abil­ity to think clearly.  These patients are being tor­tured, plain and sim­ple.  I’m not going to attack them for try­ing to save their lives and the lives of their loved ones.  Things are not okay in this coun­try, and this is a man­i­fes­ta­tion of it.  Give the patients a break.  They need our help, not a bunch of cheap talk.

What dri­ves indus­trial advo­cates is entre­pre­neur­ship.  This is a fun­da­men­tal value in our soci­ety, mak­ing money.  We can’t expect cap­i­tal­ism to go away.  And, besides, hemp is a good prod­uct.  You can make lots of good stuff from it.  I could com­plain about cap­i­tal­ism, but it’s not going away.  The mar­ket dri­ves cap­i­tal­ism, so if you’re offended, then don’t buy what’s being sold, plain and simple.

So, what I see miss­ing is that the peo­ple com­plain­ing on Face­book and claim­ing they have the higher (par­don the pun) ground are show­ing up at events they did not orga­nize and com­plain­ing about the peo­ple who did orga­nize them.  What a colos­sal waste of time.  Talk is cheap.  Instead of doing some­thing pro­duc­tive, they talk trash about oth­ers.  It’s pathetic.  This proves they are not rep­re­sent­ing any higher issue at all.  They rep­re­sent small­ness, plain and sim­ple.  I like to call them Face­book Com­man­dos, or arm­chair quar­ter­backs if you want to go with an older colloquialism.

I don’t know how any­one can say that med­ical use or indus­trial use will not lead to full legal­iza­tion, since we are see­ing full legal­iza­tion now as a direct result of the many use­ful things mar­i­juana can do.  But, if peo­ple want to say the many uses of this plant will not lead to fur­ther legal­iza­tion, let’s not waste our time attack­ing them for it.

If these whin­ers on Face­book would go find some­thing pro­duc­tive to do, instead of com­plain­ing about peo­ple doing good things, we’d all be a lot bet­ter off for it.

I don’t know about you, but when some­one starts pro­mot­ing the ben­e­fits of mar­i­juana, I want to thank them for it.  Attack­ing them on Face­book is not some­thing I can thank any­one for.

Posted in General | 6 Comments

It’s Not Over Yet


Dream­ing of a brighter future in Iowa

There has been a lot of par­ti­san bick­er­ing in the Iowa leg­is­la­ture over med­ical mar­i­juana this year, and it’s not over yet.  Since Iowa enacted a med­ical cannabis extract law (2015 Iowa Code Chap­ter 124D — Med­ical Cannabid­iol Act) last year, no one has been able to obtain it legally.  Cannabid­iol is not approved by the Food and Drug Admin­is­tra­tion (FDA) and can­not be obtained legally any­where in the United States.  So, the ques­tion is when a state enacts a law accept­ing the med­ical use of some­thing that is not approved by the fed­eral gov­ern­ment, how does that work?

You’ll have to admit, this doesn’t hap­pen very often.  With­out a thor­ough under­stand­ing of the foun­da­tions of the inter­na­tional, fed­eral, and state drug laws, it’s a dif­fi­cult ques­tion to answer.  The answer lies, how­ever, in the prefa­tory notes in the Uni­form Con­trolled Sub­stances Act, “Legit­i­mate use of con­trolled sub­stances is essen­tial for pub­lic health and safety, and the avail­abil­ity of these sub­stances must be assured.”

Iowa Democ­rats have been pro­mot­ing the cul­ti­va­tion and use of mar­i­juana for med­ical pur­poses here in Iowa.  A phrase you’ll often hear at the Capi­tol is, “Twenty-three states have already done this and Iowa does not need to rein­vent the wheel.”  But, is it really that sim­ple?  Have twenty-three states actu­ally fig­ured this out, or do we need to rein­vent the wheel?

My opin­ion is that until states part­ner with the fed­eral gov­ern­ment, a safe and reg­u­lated sup­ply of med­ical cannabis will not hap­pen and patients will be at risk.  Major pro­fes­sional med­ical orga­ni­za­tions (the Amer­i­can Acad­emy of Neu­rol­ogy and the Amer­i­can Acad­emy of Pedi­atrics) have already begun to ask the fed­eral gov­ern­ment to coop­er­ate by remov­ing mar­i­juana from the restric­tive fed­eral clas­si­fi­ca­tion that says it’s not med­i­cine any­where in the United States.  Really?  I thought there were twenty-three states that had accepted it.

I think it’s time we had a seri­ous dis­cus­sion with the fed­eral gov­ern­ment, but I don’t think major pro­fes­sional med­ical orga­ni­za­tions carry as much weight as state gov­ern­ments.  After all, what is the fed­eral gov­ern­ment?  Isn’t the fed­eral gov­ern­ment just a union of states?  I thought so.  I think that’s what I learned in school.

When I talked to my state sen­a­tor, Jack Whitver, he agreed to give this approach a try.  Sen­a­tor Whitver is a Repub­li­can and an attor­ney by pro­fes­sion.  He under­stands law.  So, I have a unique sit­u­a­tion.  My sen­a­tor under­stands law and I have a legal argu­ment.  We actu­ally speak the same lan­guage.  How­ever, when he tried to get the other Repub­li­cans to sign on to it, the Sen­ate Repub­li­can Cau­cus refused and came up with a defec­tive plan to trade the Democ­rats noth­ing for some­thing.  The details follow.

The story begins on April 15, 2015, with Sen­ate Amend­ment S-3126 (a pro­posal to change marijuana’s clas­si­fi­ca­tion in Iowa) offered by the Sen­ate Repub­li­cans in return for strik­ing the entire Med­ical Cannabis Act, SF 484, pro­posed by the Democ­rats.  Chang­ing the clas­si­fi­ca­tion of mar­i­juana in Iowa with­out chang­ing it at the fed­eral level does absolutely noth­ing.  It might be good sym­bol­ism and that’s a good rea­son to do it, but in real­ity it does absolutely noth­ing for sick and injured peo­ple.  It was not a good deal (noth­ing for some­thing) and the Sen­ate voted it down (thanks for noth­ing, Repub­li­cans).  Here is a break­down of the votes on S-3126 by party: 19 Sen­ate Repub­li­cans — Aye; 5 Sen­ate Repub­li­cans — Absent; 1 Sen­ate Demo­c­rat — Aye; 24 Sen­ate Democ­rats — Nay; 1 Sen­ate Demo­c­rat – Absent.

After that bogus deal, the Sen­ate Democ­rats offered Sen­ate Amend­ment S-3123 (a pro­posal to change marijuana’s clas­si­fi­ca­tion in Iowa) offered as an addi­tion to the Med­ical Cannabis Act, SF 484, pro­posed by the Democ­rats.  Reclas­si­fi­ca­tion does noth­ing, but it’s nice sym­bol­ism and goes along nicely with the Med­ical Cannabis Act, SF 484.  The Sen­ate voted to adopt S-3123 unan­i­mously.  Here is a break­down of the votes on S-2123 by party: 19 Sen­ate Repub­li­cans — Aye; 5 Sen­ate Repub­li­cans — Absent; 25 Sen­ate Democ­rats — Aye; 1 Sen­ate Demo­c­rat – Absent.

Stop now and real­ize that every Demo­c­rat and every Repub­li­can just agreed that mar­i­juana is med­i­cine.  Think about that for a moment, or longer if you have time.

How­ever, the vote on the Med­ical Cannabis Act was divided again.  Here is a break­down of the votes on SF 484 by party: 1 Sen­ate Repub­li­can — Aye; 18 Sen­ate Repub­li­cans — Nay; 5 Sen­ate Repub­li­cans — Absent; 25 Sen­ate Democ­rats — Aye; 1 Sen­ate Demo­c­rat — Nay.  You can see that a sin­gle Repub­li­can (thank you, Sen­a­tor Zaun) gave the Democ­rats enough votes to barely squeak this one through.  SF 484 was then assigned to the House Com­mit­tee on Pub­lic Safety to die.

Not will­ing to go down easy, on May 5, 2015, the Sen­ate Democ­rats pro­posed amend­ment S-3148 (reclas­si­fy­ing mar­i­juana as med­i­cine) to HF 567 (adding syn­thetic poi­sons to the same clas­si­fi­ca­tion mar­i­juana is cur­rently in).  The Sen­ate nar­rowly adopted the amend­ment and sent the bill back to the House (thank you, again and again, Sen­a­tor Zaun).  Here is a break­down of the votes on S-3148 by party: 1 Sen­ate Repub­li­can — Aye; 23 Sen­ate Repub­li­cans — Nay; 25 Sen­ate Democ­rats — Aye; 1 Sen­ate Demo­c­rat — Nay.  Here is a break­down of the votes on HF 567 by party: 1 Sen­ate Repub­li­can — Aye; 23 Sen­ate Repub­li­cans — Nay; 26 Sen­ate Democ­rats — Aye.

So, the House Repub­li­cans got really upset about HF 567 being amended by the Sen­ate.  On May 20, 2015, House Repub­li­cans pro­posed an amend­ment H-1365 (adding syn­thetic poi­sons to the same clas­si­fi­ca­tion mar­i­juana is cur­rently in) to SF 510 (the stand­ing appro­pri­a­tions bill).  Not to be out­done, the House Democ­rats pro­pose their own amend­ment H-1379 (legal­iz­ing med­ical mar­i­juana) to H-1365.  Both amend­ments were ruled not ger­mane to the stand­ing appro­pri­a­tions bill, but the House Democ­rats were unable to sus­pend the rules to vote on their amend­ment while the House Repub­li­cans were able to suc­cess­fully sus­pend the rules to vote on their amend­ment.  Here is a break­down of the votes to sus­pend the rules for H-1379: 2 House Repub­li­cans — Aye; 53 House Repub­li­cans — Nay; 2 House Repub­li­cans — Absent; 41 House Democ­rats — Aye; 2 House Democ­rats — Absent.  Here is a break­down of the votes on H-1365: 55 House Repub­li­cans — Aye; 2 House Repub­li­cans — Absent; 41 House Democ­rats — Nay; 2 House Democ­rats — Absent.

So, what does all of this mean?  We have SF 484 dead in the House.  We have HF 567 dead in the House.  We have SF 510 dead in the Sen­ate.  We know there will be a bud­get bill.  And, we know syn­thetic poi­son isn’t going to be ignored another year.  But, all the bills appear to be dead.

My state sen­a­tor, Sen­a­tor Whitver, tells me the House amend­ment, H-1365 (adding syn­thetic pot to the list of con­trolled sub­stances and grant­ing a longer period for tem­po­rary sched­ul­ing from 60 days to 2 years), to SF 510 (the bud­get appro­pri­a­tions bill) is prob­a­bly dead.  The sen­ate will not adopt the amend­ment.  He does not know exactly how the bud­get will be resolved, but it could go to a con­fer­ence committee.

My state rep­re­sen­ta­tive, Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Koester, tells me SF 484 can still be debated in the House if there is a motion to sus­pend the rules, and it can still be tacked onto another bill as an amend­ment if it’s ger­mane, or by motion to sus­pend the rules if it’s not germane.

So, every­thing is still on the table until the leg­is­la­ture adjourns.  If you sup­port SF 484, now is the time to get on down to the state Capi­tol and ask for a motion to sus­pend the rules to get this on the House floor for debate this year.  There’s not much time left.

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What the Democrats are missing.

Audio from April 20, 2015

At the Iowa Capitol

At the Iowa Capitol

Democ­rats are say­ing Iowa should not wait for the fed­eral gov­ern­ment to legal­ize med­ical use of marijuana.

Repub­li­cans are ask­ing how busi­nesses (4 grow­ers and 12 dis­pen­saries) are all going to be vio­lat­ing fed­eral law here Iowa and that’s just okay with all of us?

So I’m ask­ing, if accepted med­ical use in treat­ment in the United States means accepted by a state and intrastate med­ical use does not require FDA approval, why aren’t we say­ing that its legal instead of agree­ing that it’s illegal?

Are we say­ing, “We knows it’s a crime, but we’re okay with it?” Really?

Repub­li­cans will just have to eat that?

I under­stand pas­sion and all that, but we’re get­ting to the point where we really need to work out the details.

We should say the fed­eral gov­ern­ment is vio­lat­ing our states’ right to make this a med­i­cine and the exist­ing fed­eral law already makes it legal for us to do that. Just because the fed­eral gov­ern­ment is unlaw­fully keep­ing mar­i­juana in a clas­si­fi­ca­tion that says it has no med­ical use in treat­ment in the United States is no excuse for us to just go along with it.

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April Ankeny Legislative Forum

Audio from April 11, 2015

Ankeny Legislative Forum

Ankeny Leg­isla­tive Forum — April 11, 2015


CARL OLSEN: Yes, Sen­a­tor Whitver, can you tell me how you’re going to vote on the med­ical cannabis pro­gram and what we might need to do to get the House to adopt that?

SENATOR JACK WHITVER: The cur­rent bill as is that greatly, in my opin­ion, greatly expands what we did last year, I would not be sup­port­ive of at this time. I’m more inter­ested, I think there’s a right way… The last year we passed a bill that said the state of Iowa believes mar­i­juana has med­i­c­i­nal value. If that is true, and that’s what we think as a state, I think there is a proper way to do it going for­ward. So, mov­ing from sched­ule 1 to sched­ule 2, some­thing like that would be of much more inter­est to me than just blow­ing open that code chap­ter. It’s impor­tant to me that what­ever we do with med­ical mar­i­juana is tested and we have the research behind it. And right now that bill, I don’t think it gives us that oppor­tu­nity to do that. So, I just think there is a process to go through that we need to go through. It’s not as fast as a lot of peo­ple that are advo­cat­ing for it would like, but I thinks it’s our role to do it the right way.

CARL OLSEN: Is there any chance of fix­ing it before it goes to the House?

SENATOR JACK WHITVER: It depends. It was sup­posed to go for a vote Wednes­day. It didn’t, so I don’t know when it’s going to come up. It could be Mon­day, I guess it could be Tues­day. We’re work­ing on it, but I don’t know if it can be changed to the point where I can vote for it.

REPRESENTATIVE JOHN LANDON: We were promised in the House when this bill passed last year at 2 o’clock in the morn­ing on the last day that we would have time to run a test from the Uni­ver­sity of Iowa, that we would have absolutely sci­en­tific evi­dence and results before we were ever asked to expand or do any­thing with it again. And I don’t know how this request before the test has even got­ten its legs under it hon­ors that promise that we were made in the House. So, I would tell you that I’m very inter­ested in that test and the sci­en­tific data behind it to make sure. And I would like to see it done through phar­ma­cies where a pre­scrip­tion can be made to an indi­vid­ual and they can go get what they absolutely know is the right level of med­ica­tion. And I’ll give you an exam­ple, today if you go to the phar­macy you can buy cer­tain lev­els of maybe ibupro­fen, you know what’s in an aspirin, you know for sure. But you don’t know that with cannabis oil because there’s no stan­dards for man­u­fac­tur­ing. The process is unde­fined and before that hap­pens I think there’s a lot of things that need to be put into place for that. And so, for us just to prove what­ever, who’s going to be respon­si­ble for unin­tended con­se­quences if things hap­pen that aren’t med­ically proven yet? And that’s the ques­tion that we all deal with and I don’t for a sec­ond want any­one to suf­fer for any rea­son. But I do think that some­times we look at issue like this and we can do more harm than we can good for folks. We want to make sure that every step that we’re tak­ing helps peo­ple and is the right thing to do.

CARL OLSEN: How do you explain twenty-three states mov­ing ahead with some­thing like that?

REPRESENTATIVE JOHN LANDON: You know I can’t explain Wash­ing­ton DC.

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My Amendment to SF 484

Sick People's March

Sick People’s March — April 7, 2015 — Des Moines, Iowa — in sup­port of SF 484

On April 7, 2015, I met with Iowa sen­a­tors Jack Whitver and Charles Schnei­der to dis­cus pro­tect­ing Iowa cannabis patients from the unlaw­ful clas­si­fi­ca­tion of cannabis under the fed­eral Con­trolled Sub­stances Act.

Sen­a­tor Whitver gave me the fol­low­ing amend­ment he had cre­ated for me by the Leg­isla­tive Ser­vices Agency:

!– clear floats –>

Sen­ate File 484
Amend Sen­ate File 484 as fol­lows:
1. Page 17, after line 11 by insert­ing:
<Sec. ___. NOTIFICATION. The office of attor­ney
gen­eral in this state shall notify the attor­ney
gen­eral of the United States request­ing that the United
States depart­ment of jus­tice rec­og­nize this state’s
right to deter­mine the med­ical use of con­trolled
sub­stances, by reclas­si­fy­ing mar­i­juana as a sched­ule 2
con­trolled sub­stance instead of a sched­ule 1 con­trolled
2. Title page, line 1, by strik­ing and
Insert­ing <relat­ing to>
3. By renum­ber­ing as necessary.

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Ankeny Legislative Forum — March 14, 2015

Audio from March 14, 2015

Ankeny Chamber Legislative Forum - March 14, 2015

Ankeny Cham­ber Leg­isla­tive Forum — March 14, 2015

Ankeny Cham­ber Leg­isla­tive Forum — March 14, 2015

MODERATOR: Yes, sir.

LAURA JUMPER’S DAD: For­give me if I don’t phrase this ques­tion right, but it has to do with the impasse on cannabis oil. You know I’m new to this and I’ve got a daugh­ter who’s very sick and we think this could help her. And I know there’s been, I think there’s another bill that was pro­posed, and you can own it in the state of Iowa, you just can’t… I don’t know if you can own it, if you can’t trans­port it, and you can’t get it into the state. So it seems just kind of like a bot­tle neck of, you know that last bill’s kind of ineffective.

MODERATOR: So, the ques­tion is what’s the sta­tus of cannabis oil. What is the impasse, and where do you see it going? Sound reasonable?


SENATOR JACK WHITVER: Yeah, so last year we did pass a bill that legal­ized some of the cannabis oil for a very lim­ited num­ber of peo­ple. That bill, frankly, I have one of our biggest advo­cates from the area Carl Olsen’s back here that has been big on this issue. I don’t know if he would agree, but I would say that I don’t think that bill was thought out as well as it should have been. And it doesn’t do what it was intended to do. We passed it at 3 in the morn­ing the last day of the ses­sion. I believe that, and I’ve been open minded but cau­tious on this issue. But I believe that before we expand it, which is what the bill in the Sen­ate that was pro­posed I think last week, expands it greatly, I believe we need to fix what we have and make sure that it’s work­able. This is an issue that you really need the fed­eral gov­ern­ment and the state gov­ern­ment work­ing together. Because what we told par­ents like your­self last year is, sure you can own it in Iowa, but you have to go to Col­orado or Cal­i­for­nia to buy it and then you can bring it back, but once you bring it back you cross fed­eral, or state lines, which is a fed­eral crime. And so what we passed I don’t believe can help any­one. And we need to find a solu­tion with that and I think, frankly, it prob­a­bly starts with the fed­eral gov­ern­ment and what they’re doing. Per­son­ally, I want to see more research before we blow that chap­ter wide open with a lot more.

REPRESENTATIVE JOHN LANDEN: It’s my opin­ion that you need to be able to go to a phar­macy and get a pre­scrip­tion filled.


REPRESENTATIVE KEVIN KOESTER: I voted for that at 3 in the morn­ing on May 1, 2014. The access, for gov­ern­ment to restrict what could be legal in a way that would help a child is a really tough issue. The slip­pery slope is where it goes from there, in terms of, “Should we serve it in school lunch?” Alright, I’m get­ting a lit­tle rad­i­cal with it, but I’ve been out of state in every direc­tion you can go with my daugh­ter that I ref­er­ence, hav­ing a dilemma, because of her birth defect, because you’ve got to lis­ten to the best sources you can to fig­ure out which surgery to do and what to do. And gov­ern­ment bet­ter not get in my way. What am I going to do for my daugh­ter? And at the same time, the bill we passed sat­is­fied some very impor­tant enthu­si­asts for this thing last year because we mis­un­der­stood how it would work. So, I agree with the com­ment that it did noth­ing help­ful to advance its pur­pose. It needs to be looked at, but in this very build­ing is the Ankeny Sub­stance Abuse Project which looks really hard at avoid­ing peo­ple get­ting into addic­tion around irre­spon­si­ble behav­ior when we cod­dle human nature to serve cannabis in school lunch and I’m going to do what I can to keep that from happening.

MODERATOR: So, just to con­firm, the ques­tion about school lunches was rhetor­i­cal and not a state­ment of sup­port, then?

REPRESENTATIVE KEVIN KOESTER: Oh, I for­got that we were record­ing. That’s new. These record­ings are new. I’m not used to this.

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