I have filed four petitions for marijuana rescheduling with the Iowa Board of Pharmacy (2008, 2012, 2013, and 2014), two without any scientific or medical evidence (2008 and 2014), and two with scientific and medical evidence (2012 and 2013). I won the two that did not include any scientific or medical evidence, proving that I am not qualified to present scientific or medical evidence and proving that my legal arguments are solid enough to provoke action by the board without any scientific or medical evidence. The reason for this appears to be simple. The board does not need my assistance in finding scientific and medical information on marijuana.
One of my concerns is that the board never issued any explanation for it’s ruling in 2010, and now they admit nobody understood it. I’ve asked if they will put a little more substance into it this time.
February 17, 2010 (Scott Galenbeck was the board’s attorney and Vern Benjamin was the board’s chair) SCOTTGALENBECK: Vern, I have a question. Do you have any interest in doing some explanation of why, I mean articulating in a document that would go to the legislature your reasons or your thinking. I know that’s a lot of work, but… VERNONBENJAMIN: Well, I was thinking that when we were doing, when I said we as a board then could talk and give… But, yeah.
March 3, 2010 (Carl Olsen was the petitioner and Lloyd Jessen was the board’s executive director) CARLOLSEN: Do you have any idea when the Iowa Board of Pharmacy will issue its written explanation of how it arrived at its conclusions on February 17th? LLOYDJESSEN: The Board has not set a time for the release of a written explanation.
August 27, 2010 (Ed Maier is the current board chair) EDMAIER: I think it’s important, whatever we do, that we have a solid cut message that the people understand. Last time, we were totally misunderstood, exactly what was happening.
To be fair to all involved, look at the time line of events.
My argument has always been that schedule I, both state and federal, interferes with the implementation of state medical marijuana laws.
As of July 1, 2014, Iowa is now one of those states with a medical marijuana law.
I filed my current petition on July 7, 2014.
So, that should explain why I was able to walk in on Wednesday and get a unanimous ruling granting my petition.
It also explains why the board had a hard time explaining what they were doing in 2010.
Remember, I never asked them to recommend a medical cannabis program like New Mexico, or any program.
The only thing I asked them for in 2008 was to initiate the process to remove marijuana from schedule I.
Obviously, the board thought it would make sense to recommend a state program to explain why they wanted to remove marijuana from schedule I.
But, that made everything more complicated.
Now, it’s simple. We have a state medical marijuana law and both state and federal schedule I interfere with its implementation.
I want the state of Iowa to help me get federal scheduling changed.
This might apply in different contexts as well. For example, when someone tries to challenge scheduling in a criminal case, the court will usually say the defendant had administrative remedies available and did not exhaust those administrative remedies prior to getting arrested. But, here in Iowa, we have not only exhausted those administrative remedies, we’ve won a ruling in our favor at the administrative level. I am following a federal case that seems to break this rule about exhausting administrative remedies, called United States v. Schweder, et al., No. 2:11-cr-00449-KJM-16 (Eastern District of California). If you’re not familiar with it, I have all the documents at http://www.iowamedicalmarijuana.org/States/California.aspx
Wednesday, August 27, 2014, approximately 9:39 a.m.
Board members present: Susan Frey (temporary chair, licensed pharmacist), LaDonna Gratias (public member), Edward Maier (chair, licensed pharmacist), Edward McKenna (licensed pharmacist), Sharon Meyer (licensed pharmacist), Judith M. Trumpy (public member). Board member absent: James Miller (licensed pharmacist).
Susan Frey: Next up we have 4.4 and that is a petition for agency action for marijuana scheduling from Carl Olsen.
Carl Olsen: Yes.
Susan Frey: You’re here.
Carl Olsen: Are you ready?
Susan Frey: I’m ready.
Carl Olsen: Alright. My name is Carl Olsen. I would like the board to recommend the Iowa legislature remove marijuana from Schedule 1. The code sections are Iowa Code Chapter 124 Section 201 and 124.203. Under those sections the board has the authority to recommend the legislature remove marijuana from Schedule 1. I made this recommendation last year. I made this recommendation several times, this request. But, particularly last year I made this same request. At that time there were nineteen (19) states that had legalized the medical use of marijuana. As of today there are twenty-three (23). And as of this year another eleven (11) have enacted cannabis oil bills, like Iowa enacted this year, that require people to leave the state of Iowa, go to another state where they can obtain this oil, one of the states where it is authorized to produce the cannabis, and then bring it back to Iowa, which violates state and federal laws all the way through.
Removing marijuana from Schedule 1 would be an important step in a big obstacle, federal Schedule 1. The board has the authority to recommend that marijuana be removed from state Schedule 1. That would be an important first step in sending an important message to the federal government that there’s a big problem with Schedule 1 and the implementation of these state laws. We’ve got thirty-four (34) states now and last year when I was here it was only nineteen (19). So, you can see how rapidly this is moving forward. I don’t think the board can say this is not a valid concern, or that the board should not be saying, be participating in the legislative process as required by the Iowa Code.
Susan Frey: Any comments from board members? Thoughts?
And, we’re handing out an article from the Des Moines Register today, or yesterday August 26th, on the cannabis oil.
Carl Olsen: Yeah, there was a hearing held yesterday in the Iowa Department of Public Health on that.
Sharon Meyer: You would like a recommendation from the board to the schedule. Here, it’s saying the family could find an out of state supplier. It would be implemented, … Sorry, got on the wrong paragraph. It says people are frustrated by the pace of the implementation and the oil is not available. Are you saying that we need to make a statement to the legislature?
Carl Olsen: I don’t think the legislature understands the technical nature of the five (5) schedules, and I think the board does. And I think they need the assistance of the board with that particular issue. It’s obvious they want to do something. And, it’s obvious that they’ve started to move forward. But, I don’t think they understand how important to scheduling is. Schedule 1 says no accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, and that is just not the case. It has accepted medical use in thirty-four (34) states. Why the federal government hasn’t moved it out of Schedule 1 I can’t say. But this board recommended it be removed from state schedule 1 in 2010. And, I think the board should continue to stand behind that and not let the legislature think that you’ve changed your mind, or that you’re not interested anymore, or … I’ve heard that comment from legislators, like, “What’s happened with the board of pharmacy? Why are they backing out on this?” So, I think there’s real damage there.
Ed Maier: Madam chair, this is Ed. I think a couple of us that looked through this in 2010, I think this is important enough, if we can, I think we should maybe somehow discuss, whether we appoint a committee, or send it to rules committee to talk about, or whatever, for some recommendations, and talk. I think it’s important, whatever we do, that we have a solid cut message that the people understand. Last time, we were totally misunderstood, exactly what was happening. I don’t know that, I guess I might recommend that we somehow study this and that we take it up at the next meeting if that’s possible.
Susan Frey: Well, you’ve been… I was not aware of the recent hearing. I guess I would like to, you know, look at some of that information and incorporate that. I think, you know, I would certainly be willing to establish a study group.
Carl Olsen: I participated in that hearing yesterday and they said they would give me all, everything that was submitted, and a recording of the hearing and all of that.
Terry Witkowski: Just to clarify, that hearing was their proposed rules.
Carl Olsen: Yeah.
Terry Witkowski: for the cannabidiol program, correct?
Carl Olsen: Right. And there were a lot of comments that weren’t… didn’t stay confined to that and they kept saying you’ll have to talk to the legislators about. But, anyway, it was all…
Susan Frey: And, I mean… If they’re talking about rules, that will set a precedent also, so I think that’s probably something that we need to, you know, look into a little deeper, further. So, I would entertain a motion to form a…
Terry Witkowski: You want to refer it to a committtee, or form a separate committee?
Susan Frey: Well, Ed suggested… Ed, do you want to go to rules committee with that or do you want a separate committee?
Ed Maier: You know, I’m not sure. I don’t know where the rules committee is now. I know that they have a considerable amount of work that they’re doing on legislation and other things, so I might defer to somebody on the rules committee as to whether they would prefer that. Or, do we prefer a separate committee that would take a look at all of the new things that have happened and try to make some sort of recommendation>
Terry Witkowski: Do you anticipate having something ready to present a legislative proposal this year? Because the deadline for that is the end of November.
Ed Maier: The end of November?
Terry Witkowski: Yes. Really by Thanksgiving we have to have it submitted. It would have to go to, you’d have to have a legislator to present it.
Ed Maier: So, Terry, if we were to defer it and take action one way or the other at our next meeting, would that be too late? Or, is that pushing it?
Terry Witkowski: You could, if we had a proposal ready for the next board meeting, that would be timely.
Ed Maier: Okay. I think that’s probably what we need to do. Either rules,… Rules is really, really busy, and I know they have been, but, you know, maybe a separate committee, a small committee that could take a look at this stuff and then get together and just decide on a recommendation.
Ed McKenna: Being on the rules committee I would probably agree with Ed that we should have a separate committee and get more input from other people.
Susan Frey: I would agree.
Ed McKenna: I know we have a lot of separate committees, but…
Susan Frey: Okay, well…
Terry Witkowski: Ed, did you want to be on that committee? Or, chair that committee?
Ed Maier: Let me…
Terry Witkowski: You have the history, so I’m thinking that that might be, you know, it would be a good thing to have somebody with that…
Ed Maier: Yes, Yeah, I would do that.
Terry Witkowski: You can read all the cases you want this weekend.
Ed Maier: You got it Terry.
Lloyd Jessen: Why don’t we have a motion then to form a committee with Ed as chair and then I’ll work with Ed so,…
Ed Maier: There you go. We’ll work together to put a committee together here and get it taken care of.
Terry Witkowski: Ask the board members to see if anybody’s interested, too.
Lloyd Jessen: Yeah, we can do that.
Sharon Meyer: So moved.
Susan Frey: Okay, it’s been moved. Do I have a second?
Ed McKenna: Second.
Susan Frey: Okay, it’s been moved and seconded to form a committee to review the petition on agency action for marijuana scheduling with a, to bring it back at our November meeting. All of those in favor say aye. Want a role call vote?
Ed Maier: Maier, aye.
LaDonna Gratias: Gratias, aye.
Ed McKenna: Aye.
Sharon Meyer: Meyer, aye.
Judith M. Trumpy: Trumpy, aye.
Susan Frey: Frey, aye. All those opposed? Motion carries.
Carl Olsen: Well, I have to get back to work, but thank you all. You guys are awesome. I’ll see you later.
Medical marijuana has finally made its legal entrance into Iowa’s culture with the legalization of cannabis oil on July 1, 2014 (Iowa Medical Cannabidiol Act of 2014). In response, a new business venture here in Iowa has shown an interest in supplying this product, iCann: Reasonable Cannabis Solutions in Urbandale, Iowa. I talked briefly with one of the owners today and I’ll be talking with him again soon to get more details. In an email to Crystal Brunt, Iowa NORML Women’s Alliance, the company said it is attempting to work with legislators and patients. Two of the organizations mentioned in the email were Advocacy Strategies and the University of Iowa College of Medicine, both of which would be key resources for any business venture to be successful in Iowa. I’m still trying to understand the legal issues. A pharmaceutical product by the name of Epidiolex manufactured by GW Pharmaceuticals is currently in phase 3 clinical trials in Iowa. What is important to understand is that the cannabis oil that has just been legalized here in Iowa is not Epidiolex, which explains why a company like iCann: Reasonable Cannabis Solutions would be interested in distributing it in Iowa. Cannabis oil has not been approved by the FDA and there is no sign the FDA will be considering it in the near future. One of the interesting developments is that Congress recently legalized the production of industrial hemp and industrial hemp has a high level of cannabidiol. So, although the FDA hasn’t approved it, it would appear that cannabis oil can actually be made from industrial hemp. The federal Agriculture Act of 2014, Section 7606, authorizes the production of hemp for both “agricultural or academic research”, so it appears that opens the door for cannabis oil production. Stay tuned for further developments.
The Iowa Democratic Party (IDP) State Platform Committee met again on Saturday, March 17, to finish our work on the IDP State Platform Committee report to the IDP State Convention on June 21. The deadline for submitting the report to the IDP is May 23. The room was scheduled for 8.5 hours, We started at 10:00 a.m., but we spent the first hour hearing from “important” people instead of getting to work. Then, we spent two hours on the first subcommittee report (Agriculture and Environment) of six reports, and then took an hour for lunch. So, we killed four hours and only got one subcommittee report finished and still had five sections left to go. If you’re doing the math, that would be 10 more hours, but the room was only available for another 4.5 hours.
So, we sped up a little and did the next two sections (Economy, Commerce and Labor; Education) in less than an hour each. However, when we got to the Government and Law subcommittee report, that subcommittee had not reduced their report to the suggested word limit and we spent another two hours on that report, which put us right up to 6:00 p.m. While this was going on, the Health and Human Services subcommittee decided to leave the room and re-write their subcommittee report, leaving us short on members who should have been paying attention to the Government and Law subcommittee report instead of doing the work they should have done before the meeting. When they came back in at 6:00 p.m., someone said they had done such a good job re-writing their subcommittee report that we should just accept it without seeing it. I saw a plank on medical cannabis I did not like in that subcommittee report before it got re-written and it was still poorly written after they re-wrote the report, so I made an objection I had planned to make earlier. My objection was upheld by the group and we proceeded to review the subcommittee report. So, here was my objection:
In the 2012 IDP Platform, we had
Page 20, Line 367, Health & Human Services, Plank 159
We support: medical cannabis
In the 2014 First District Platform, they had
Page 9, Line 417, Government & Law
We support: Legalizing marijuana
Page 11, Line 514, Health & Human Services
We support: Federal and State laws allowing medical use of marijuana
In the 2014 Second District Platform, they had
Page 9, Line 385, Government and Law
We support: Cannabis legalization, regulation, taxation
Page 13, Line 565, Health and Human Services
We support: Legal/accessible medical marijuana (MMJ)/derivatives
In the 2014 Third District Platform, we had
Page 8, Line 359, Government and Law, Plank 15
We support: legalization of marijuana, with regulation and taxation
Page 11, Line 470, Health Care and Human Services, Plank 8
We support: legalizing medical marijuana
In the 2014 Fourth District Platform, they had
Page 11, Line 470, Health and Human Services
We support: Rescheduling cannabis to a schedule 2 substance
The Health and Human Services subcommittee wanted to go with “rescheduling cannabis to schedule 2″ or something like that. I objected to it and said we should have “medical cannabis” instead, because most people don’t know what schedule 2 is. I said I had endured all of the delay to make this one objection and I wasn’t going to be cheated out of it. I won the debate and we changed it to “medical cannabis.” But, there was a lot of other stuff in that report that ended up being amended, and it was probably 8:00 p.m. before we moved on to the last subcommittee report, International Affairs. We ended up leaving at 11:30 p.m. and we were still well over the word limit of 3000 words. We started out in the morning at 3600 words and we never addressed that issue throughout the day. I’m guessing we left that meeting somewhere around 3300 words. And, because the meeting was announced as being over by 6:30 p.m., a lot of members had left when these important votes were being taken. These meetings have not been brought to order properly, so I have written a Platform Committee Bill of Rights which you can find at: http://platform.idp3.org/.
After successfully chairing my congressional district platform committee this year, I joined up with the Iowa Democratic Party state platform committee again. This is my eighth cycle in a 16-year span. I was elected secretary of the state platform committee in 1998, 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2010, and 2012. I resigned as secretary in 2013 because the state platform chair and the state party staff rearranged the platform after I had submitted it to the party and did not tell me about it until I arrived at a public hearing and my line numbers did not match what was being distributed at the public hearing. Things are not going a whole lot better this year.
The first meeting of the platform committee on May 3 was cancelled because some of the members wanted to attend another meeting. I guess Democrats all have to go to the same meetings. I asked if we would get an additional week to draft the platform and could not get an answer. I have since gotten the answer and the answer is no, we will not get an additional week to work on the platform. We just lost a week.
The second meeting of the platform committee was supposed to start at 11:00 a.m. on May 10, but they had scheduled another meeting at the same time. Again, it seems like Democrats all have to be at the same place at the same time to get any work done. So, everyone who showed up on time was forced to wait for the meeting to start. It took a total of 2.5 hours to elect three people as permanent officers. I was accused of making motion after motion to delay the meeting, but I never made any motions. I ran for platform chair and got a tie vote of 27 to 27 on the first vote, then 25 to 25 on the second vote, and I finally lost 26 to 27 on the final vote. I was nominated for vice chair, but I refused. I was nominated for secretary, but after I accepted that nomination someone moved that we have co-secretaries. I was then added as a candidate for the election of co-secretaries without anyone asking me if I accepted. I made an objection and said I had not accepted any nomination for co-secretary. My name was removed, and they elected two co-secretaries.
Not everyone was on board with the delay, and a motion was made to seat the alternates and start the meeting. It was agreed to seat the alternates around noon, but it was not agreed to start the meeting. There were 48 people in the room (a mix of elected members and alternates) and the committee has total voting strength of 50 elected members. It was then approved to seat the next two people that walked in (either elected members or elected alternates), until the strength was a full 50. However, this did not leave room for the people still at the other meeting. A suggestion was made that we increase the number to over 50, but that motion was never made because it was agreed it would be out of order. Then a suggestion was made to unseat some of the alternates, but that motion was never made because it was agreed it would be unfair. Finally, someone mentioned that the state party can appoint up to 8 at-large members. It was then agreed that the missing members would be seated as appointed members by the state party when they came in. All this took about 1.5 hours before we started having elections.
I’ve seen some bad meetings before, but this one took the cake.
Set the first meeting the week immediately following the convention at which the members are elected
Set the time for starting the meeting at 15 minutes, after which any member can call the meeting to order
Elect permanent officers as soon as there is a quorum
A quorum is any combination of members and alternates, as long as the number allowed for a constituent unit is not exceeded (on the state platform committee, each congressional district gets a specific number of members)
appointed members must be appointed before the meeting starts, not 1.5 hours after the meeting has started
I think we will still need to amend the bylaws to get constituent units to report their platforms and elections immediately so we can actually start working on the next convention within 7 days of the previous convention or caucus.
While Governor Branstad lies about the official position of his administration, the Iowa Board of Pharmacy, the administrative agency given the task of formulating the official policy of the Branstad Administration, continues to say their official position is that marijuana is medicine and the legislature should create a medical marijuana program. You can listen for yourself by clicking here.
The first 52 minutes of the hearing was people testifying about their need for medical marijuana. Then there was a discussion of the law that created the duty of the board to make rules for medical use of marijuana that lasted for another 19 minutes, and then, finally for the last 20 minutes or so the board explains why it still supports the ruling it made in 2010.
When the legislature creates a law giving a specific administrative agency the duty of making a decision for the executive branch, it is the constitutional duty of the governor to faithfully execute that law. However, in this situation, Governor Branstad is denying that his administration supports reclassification or medical use of marijuana. That is a violation of the Iowa Constitution, imposter governor, sir.
This was also confirmed when we went to trial against the Iowa Board of Pharmacy on January 3, 2014. In the transcript of the hearing, on page 17, the judge asked the board’s attorney:
THECOURT: In fact, it made no opposite recommendation; is that correct?
MS. GAVIN: That’s correct, Your Honor. The Board has not taken any public position since this 2010 recommendation.
Governor Branstad said he’s opposed to a medical marijuana program like California’s, while ignoring the fact that the Iowa Department of Public Health has recommended a program like New Mexico’s Medical Cannabis Program. As you may recall, Iowa State Representative Clel Baudler went to California in 2010 and lied about having hemorrhoids to get a medical recommendation for marijuana. The legislation being proposed here in Iowa, SF 2215, would require a doctor and a patient to submit an application to the Iowa Department of Public Health, which would then review the application to make sure it is legitimate. Governor Branstad is not being honest when he says Iowa’s medical marijuana law will be like California’s. Obviously, Governor Branstad would like everyone to think the legislation being proposed here in Iowa is like California, so he can set up a straw man argument and knock it down. Here’s what Governor Branstad had to say this morning:
Governor Branstad cites deaths from prescription drug abuse, but there are no deaths from marijuana. Branstad cites the abuse of prescription drugs, but fails to acknowledge that the extra protection provided in SF 2215 ensures that every application for medical use of marijuana is individually reviewed by the Iowa Department of Public Health before it is approved. A doctor will not be able to simply write out a prescription as we currently allow for extremely lethal narcotics. Marijuana’s safety record is beyond dispute. The Chief Administrative Law Judge for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration found that, “Marijuana, in its natural form, is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man.” DEA Docket No. 86–22, Sept. 6, 1988.
In anticipation of the pharmacy board hearing coming up this Wednesday morning, March 12, and part 2 of Sanja Gupta’s CNN Documentary, “Weed 2: Cannabis Madness”, on Tuesday evening, March 11, I thought it would be appropriate to interview one of the founding fathers of the Iowa Medical Marijuana law enacted in 1979, Dr. Edward J. Hertko.
In 2006, when the case of Gonzales v. Oregon, 546 U.S. 243 (2006), was decided, it became clear to me that states are still the decision makers on accepted medical use of controlled substances. We have 50 states with 50 drug laws, which would be totally unnecessary if federal drug law overruled them all. So, medical use of controlled substances is still a local, state decision. Because our state drug law here in Iowa uses federal language for scheduling, I decided to test this out on the Iowa Board of Pharmacy in 2008 and ask them to find that marijuana has accepted medical use in treatment in the United States based on 12 state laws that accepted the medical use of marijuana in treatment at that time. The board refused to answer that question and insisted that it must look at the science instead. I appealed from their ruling, and while my appeal was pending, the board decided to take an independent look at the science. When the board ruled unanimously in 2010 that marijuana is medicine based on science, the court dismissed my appeal as moot. This is because it does not matter whether the board finds that marijuana is misclassified as a matter of law or as a matter of science. The fact the board ruled that marijuana should be reclassified relieved them of having to answer the legal question. So, I got what I wanted even though I did not get what I wanted for the reason I gave, state laws in 12 other states accepting the medical use of marijuana in treatment in the United States.
I did not tell the board what to do with marijuana after it is removed from schedule I, because I would be perfectly happy if marijuana is removed from schedule I without any further action by the state, which would leave it legally equivalent to dandelions. The board recommended placing marijuana in schedule II and enacting a medical marijuana program like New Mexico. Just last week, Senator Joe Bolkcom from Iowa City, Iowa, actually filed two bills, SF 2214 and SF 2215, which fairly accurately reflect the recommendations of the board in 2010. My position is that because legislators are not medical experts, and because we have the advise of the Iowa Board of Pharmacy which represents the Iowa Department of Public Health, that the legislators should enact these two bills. But, now I have to qualify that by saying the board was very specific about SF 2214, but not very specific about SF 2215. The board recommended that we enact a medical marijuana program “like” New Mexico, but did not say “indentical.” So, there is some room to negotiate here on SF 2215.
Because SF 2214 and SF 2215 were introduced on the last day they could have been approved by the Senate Committee on Human Resources, they are both dead for this year and will have to be refiled again next year. Here’s where I think we should go with these two bills next year. I think these two bills should be combined into one bill, and here’s why.
Reclassifying marijuana as medicine doesn’t make much sense without creating a means of access. So, these two bills really should be one bill, not two. The reason they ended up as two bills is a long story. Senator Bolkcom just ignored the board in 2011 and 2012 and didn’t file anything the board recommended. In 2013, Senator Bolkcom attached the language in SF 2214 to his bill from 2011 and 2012, which is SF 79, and which is also not what the board recommended. So, now, Senator Bolkcom has finally introduced bills the board recommended, but now they are two separate bills instead of one. Senator Bolkcom really should get this right in 2015 and file everything the board recommended in just one bill. It’s just so much cleaner that way.
New Mexico’s legislation specified an initial list of conditions, and then gave the New Mexico Department of Health the authority to add additional conditions. This is a bad idea for Iowa. Legislators should not be deciding which conditions marijuana should be used in treating, nor should legislators be deciding the best forms of delivery for those conditions. Medical decisions should be made by medical professionals, not legislators practicing medicine without a license.
So, I see how we could follow the spirit of the Iowa Board of Pharmacy’s recommendations and do it better than New Mexico by making our state law the first state law to reclassify marijuana as medicine and to leave the medical decisions to the Iowa Department of Public Health. I’m not saying this will happen. After all, no other state has gotten this right yet. But, Iowa could be the first state to get it right.
And, remember, by removing marijuana from schedule I, we’ve basically said it does not belong in federal schedule I, so we’ve made the critical argument that needs to be made to address federal scheduling (which has not yet been resolved).