Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Act easily clears Senate

DES MOINES  — The Iowa Senate has sent a significant message to the Iowa House. A bill that would let doctors to prescribe marijuana as treatment for Iowans who suffer from 18 chronic and debilitating conditions passed the Senate by a 45-5 vote.

Republican Senator Brad Zaun of Urbandale pleaded with Republicans in the House who are wary of this bill.

“Please,” Zaun said tonight. “…Eighty percent of Iowans support this.”

Zaun said cannabis can be “important medicine.”

“Who are we to get in front of what’s best for these kids and these people?” Zaun asked.

Carrie Anderson of Grimes has hopes that cannabis can halt the progression of her multiple sclerosis. She was among about a dozen advocates who sat in the Senate balcony to watch the voting.

“There’s no quit here. This group’s not going to quit,” Anderson said. “I’ve been hanging out with these guys for five years and we’ll keep going ’til it’s done, but I feel like we’ve got good momentum.”

Senator Tom Greene, a Republican from Burlington who is a retired pharmacist, said one estimate indicates more than 12,500 Iowans could qualify for such treatment if the bill becomes law.

“Iowans strongly believe that their friends and family with debilitating conditions deserve more,” Moore said, “deserve access to medications that we’re just now discovering what the potential, positive effects are.”

The bill would allow up to four state-licensed marijuana growing operations, with up to a dozen dispensaries. Marijuana cigarettes would not be allowed and there would be new penalties for those caught using medical cannabis for recreational purposes. In addition, Senator Charles Schneider, a Republican from West Des Moines, said lawmakers consulted with companies selling medical cannabis products in other states, to come up with the list of conditions for which cannabis could be prescribed as treatment.

“So in the end, I think this bill strikes the right balance between making sure that we have a bill that’s strong enough to attract investment to our state and make the product available to the people who really need it,” Schneider said.

It’s unclear what impact tonight’s action in the Senate may have on the House. Key House Republicans have expressed significant reservations about some of the provisions in the Senate’s bill. Representative Clel Baudler last week said the bill would pass the House “three days after hell freezes over.”

“That bill that passed in the Senate is dead in the House,” Baudler said tonight. “Now, will something replace it? I’m guessing yes.”

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