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.