By Tom Ackerman
It still might not be enough.
Despite the 1,000 people rallied at the State Capitol on Tuesday and a Des Moines Register Poll that suggests 78 of Iowans support legalizing medical cannabis oil, lawmakers say it is unlikely a bill will pass this year.
The Canabidoil Act is being debated in the Ways and Means committee in the Iowa House of Representatives, which would expand the legal use of cannabis oil to terminal cancer patients and those with multiple sclerosis.
“The people who have the power in the Statehouse are adamantly against it, despite the polling and information from other states,” said Rep. Liz Bennett, D-Cedar Rapids, who supports the bill. “It’s hard to say why, other than it’s hard for them to look past that it’s a derivative of a cannabis.”
In Iowa, cannabidoil — a product of marijuana — can be licensed to some people with epilepsy, but they cannot buy it in the state, and it’s illegal to transport it from other states.
In addition to the supporters, Kathryn Dickel, an organizer for the rally and medical marijuana advocate, said a number of medical groups have joined in favoring the bill, including 95 business leaders who have voiced interest in the motion.
As a marketer by profession, Dickel said she began advocating for medical marijuana use when an ill friend asked for her help in 2014.
“The fact is that the majority of Iowans support it, but the majority of people in the Statehouse don’t necessarily support it.”
House Speaker Linda Upmeyer, R-Clear Lake, has said she will not support such a bill, as she has the power to not let a bill go to vote or have it debated on the House floor.
Dickel said there is significant resistance from lawmakers who believe the Food and Drug Administrator should handle the problem of aiding those in need and believe the oil will negatively impact youth.
But Dickel maintains a dispensary would require a pharmacist on staff, a patient would need a prescription, and also need to be licensed in the state.
A large portion of the bill was struck in the State Government Committee, which would have made the oil legal for 11 other conditions and allowed for dispensaries and cultivation in Iowa.
Rep. Ralph Watts, R-Adel, voted for the bill when it was in the State Government committee but said he would not have voted for it before much of it was struck.
Watts said a mother visiting his district whose son has a rare form of epilepsy helped shape his decision. The boy had been on various drugs since his birth and was then 3 years old.
“They finally took him off all the drugs and told her to try cannabidoil,” he said.
The medicine took and the boy’s behavior improved, but he may never be cured, Watts said.
Dickel said a major reason medical marijuana holds potential for making progress in legislation is because more Republicans are seeing it as a viable solution to certain conditions.
“Republicans are hearing these stories from their constituents who are now changing their minds; they’re on board, and they want to support it,” she said of the bill introduced by Peter Cownie, who is a House Republican.
“Many patients are people that have exhausted every other treatment within their condition. They’re out of options,” Dickel said.