JOHNSTON — Since the Iowa Legislature first passed a law in 2014 to allow the use of medical cannabis, lawmakers have been making adjustments and discussing expanding the law to make it available for more health-related uses.
Two lawmakers involved in that discussion this year are optimistic a modest expansion already approved by the House will become law.
However, the measure is meeting resistance from lawmakers concerned the state is getting ahead of federal medical cannabis policy and that legislators don’t have the medical expertise to be making decisions about its use. Others question its efficacy.
“I would just say that this is part of a learning continuum,” Senate President Charles Schneider, R-West Des Moines, said during taping of Iowa Public Television’s “Iowa Press” that can be seen at 7:30 p.m. tonight (Friday).
He was among the legislators who pushed for passage of the law in 2014 and who have supported the changes made since then.
“It was only after listening to my own constituents and friends who have family members with debilitating conditions who would have benefited from this that I finally got comfortable with it,” Schneider said.
Federal inaction limits the Legislature’s ability to expand medical cannabis usage, he said.
Reclassifying cannabis from a Schedule I drug to Schedule II, he said, “would open it up for more research, and ultimately what I would like to see is people be able to treat this just like any other medications, doctors be able to prescribe it just like any other medication, people to be able to go into John Forbes’ pharmacy and buy it just like any other medication.”
That’s Rep. John Forbes, D-Urbandale, a pharmacist who has been a key part of the discussion that led to the passage of House File 372 now being considered by the Senate.
Some states have been more aggressive in removing the restrictions on medical cannabis use and availability, but Forbes said the House proposal would move Iowa in the right direction.
“Our bill that is in the House now has about 10 different medical conditions from cancer to ALS,” he said.
A key change is to allow access to medical cannabis for terminally ill people with less than a year to live.
“We did take that cap off and allowed them to use higher dosages and more milligrams to be able to treat their pain on end-of-life-type symptoms,” he said.
Although the Legislature established a medical cannabis board of medical practitioners, Forbes said the Legislature has enough health care professionals in its ranks to make decisions about medical cannabis.
“We have two pharmacists, we have a physician, we have a dentist, we have a nurse practitioner and we have at least one nurse in both chambers, so we have the medical expertise, I think, in both chambers to make those decisions which are best for Iowans,” he said.
“Iowa Press” also can be seen at 8:30 a.m. Saturday on IPTV World, at noon Sunday on IPTV and online at IPTV.org.