Iowa Board of Pharmacy Legislative Proposals for 2016

I attended the Iowa Board of Pharmacy’s meeting on Wednesday, November 4, 2015, because I noticed that the recommendation for the reclassification of cannabidiol that the board approved on January 5, 2015, was not on the list of proposed changes to the schedules of controlled substances for 2016. That item was on the agenda for 11:00 a.m., so I took a couple hours of vacation and attended the meeting. Just to be cautious, I filed a written comment on the item asking why cannabidiol was not included.

James A. Miller

James A. Miller

And, true to form, the chair of the board, Jim Miller, took an exceptionally long time with a presentation on telepharmacy that he was none too pleased with. The discussion on the list of proposed changes to the schedules was delayed until 1:00 p.m. and I had to leave.

While I was at the meeting, I noticed that my request for clarification has been placed in front of the assistant attorney general, Meghan Gavin. As I was leaving, I asked Ms. Gavin if I could get a written response to my question. Ms. Gavin said the recommendation to reclassify cannabidiol was only for 2016.

While I was there, I happened to talk with Dale Woolery, Deputy Director of the Office of Drug Control Policy. I asked him what was going on and he said a lot of the stuff the board was recommending for 2016 was stuff that didn’t get enacted in 2015. That did not jive with what Ms. Gavin told me. Just to be sure, I looked at HF 567 which is legislation from 2015 that is still pending in the Iowa House, and, sure enough, some of the same stuff in the board’s 2016 legislative proposal is in HF 567 from 2015.

Ms. Gavin said I was not entitled to a written request and asked me if I wanted my request put on the agenda for the next meeting. I contacted her later and told her my request was a comment on an agenda item and she could do whatever she wanted with it. She said she does not represent the board, but there she was with my request in front of her at the meeting.

So, today I filed an open records request under Iowa Code Chapter 22 asking for any action the board has taken on their January 5, 2015, proposal to reclassify cannabidiol. I’m guessing the board hasn’t lifted a finger to promote their written decision in January. We’ll soon find out. The board has 20 days to respond.

Posted in States | 2 Comments

My Conversation with Senator Grassley

U.S. Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA)

U.S. Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA)

I spoke with U.S. Senator Charles Grassley on Monday, November 2, 2015. I’ve tried contacting him many times before, but this is the first time we’ve actually spoken. The reason for that is because Senator Grassley has developed a new interest in cannabis. On June 24, 2015, in their positions as co-chairs of the U.S. Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control, Senator Grassley and Senator Diane Feinstein held a hearing on cannabidiol, a component of marijuana that has a long history of reducing seizures. You can watch a video of the hearing and download the written statements of the witnesses here.

Because federal classification of controlled substances involves two federal agencies, the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Senator Grassley and Senator Feinstein wrote letters to the administrative agencies asking them to explain the situation. See Title 21, United States Code, Section 811. The letters are damning. This is something Senator Grassley is known for, investigating the federal government, so it is pleasing to see him investigating something that I consider important for public health.

Senator Grassley sent me copies of the following documents:

October 20, 2014 Letter to DOJ and DHHS
December 16, 2014 DHHS Response
January 5, 2015 DOJ Response
May 13, 2015 Letter to DHHS
May 13, 2015 Letter to DOJ
June 23, 2015 DHHS Response
June 23, 2015 DOJ Response

What these documents show is that the federal government has been blocking research for at least 15 years or longer. Senator Grassley told me there hasn’t been sufficient resarch to support reclassification of marijuana. Well, that’s obviously because the federal government has been blocking the research. Catch 22. It’s interesting to note the timing here, because the DHHS published a notice that it’s changing this policy in the Federal Register on June 23, 2015, the day before Senator Grassley’s hearing. The Brookings Institute recently released a report detailing how the federal government has been blocking research on marijuana, which you can download here. So, there’s real damage here.

As the Brookings Institute points out, this is just scratching the surface. Further impeding research, there is only one manufacturer of marijuana in the United States and only one supplier. The National Institute on Drug Abuse is the sole supplier and the University of Mississippi is the sole grower. Just the name of that agency tells you what you need to know. The National Institute on Drug Abuse’s mission is to understand the abuse of drugs, not legitimize their medical use. Catch 22.

Senator Grassley told me he objects to the patchwork of 40 state laws allowing some form of marijuana to be used for medical purposes. I responded by saying the federal government created that patchwork by its failure to act in good faith. The federal government has lost credibility on this issue, plain and simple.

Senator Grassley told me he objects to reclassifying marijuana without some medical evidence. Senator Grassley suggested that cannabidiol might be the evidence that leads to reclassification of the plant. I responded by saying that his idea makes perfect sense, but the damage has already been done.

Senator Grassley suggested that if cannabidiol is rescheduled to schedule 2 or lower then marijuana is the source of a federally accepted medicine. That might lead to reclassification of the plant. I responded by saying cannabidiol has absolutely zero abuse potential and it won’t be in schedule 2, or in any schedule. A substance with zero abuse potential does not belong in any of the schedules.

I also pointed out that we have had synthetic cannabinoids in schedule 2 and schedule 3 now for almost 30 years. Those synthetic cannabinoids would not exist if they hadn’t been first discovered naturally occurring in the marijuana plant. So, cannabidiol would not be the first cannabinoid to be rescheduled, but it would be the first one that isn’t being manufactured synthetically. There is a cannabidiol product called Epidiolex that is manufactured in England and appears to be nearing FDA approval for marketing in the United States. So, while I agreed that Epidiolex would make a good case for rescheduling the whole marijuana plant, it also shows we are lagging behind the rest of the world in doing research on cannabis. We haven’t been doing the research because we have been blocking it for decades.

I told Senator Grassley about my work with the Iowa Board of Pharmacy and he asked me to keep him updated. He said he would keep me updated on any progress he sees at the federal level. I sent his attorneys an update on my recent petition with the Iowa Board of Pharmacy a few days later and they responded immediately, so I get the sense that Senator Grassley is now a valuable partner as we move forward. He seems to be listening, and that’s a good thing. He really can’t defend the behavior of the federal government, and the more he looks at it, the more he’s going to come to the same realization the Iowa Senate came to by a vote of 44-0-6 on April 15, 2015, marijuana does not belong in schedule 1.

http://www.drugcaucus.senate.gov/
http://www.drugcaucus.senate.gov/content/drug-caucus-hearing-barriers-cannabidiol-research-0
http://uscode.house.gov/view.xhtml?path=/prelim@title21/chapter13/subchapter1/partB&edition=prelim
http://www.brookings.edu/research/papers/2015/10/20-war-on-marijuana-research-hudak-wallack
https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2015/06/23/2015-15479/announcement-of-revision-to-the-department-of-health-and-human-services-guidance-on-procedures-for

Posted in Federal, States | 3 Comments

Marijuana and Federalism Conference

federalism

Presentations from our conference:

“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
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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.

david_young

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 negligent for failure to initiate 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, and 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 | 20 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.

deez-nuts-for-president-news-blo-660x330

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.

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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

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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