Iowa Gov. Branstad leery of medicinal marijuana

Expresses concern for “unintended consequences" of other states' loosened marijuana laws

Rod Boshart
Published: March 10 2014 | 1:19 pm - Updated: 1 April 2014 | 9:23 am in

DES MOINES – Gov. Terry Branstad said Monday he empathizes with people suffering from maladies who have come to the Statehouse seeking changes that would allow them access to medical marijuana, but he is not willing to sign off on the idea of legalizing the drug in Iowa for medicinal purposes.

“I think we have to be careful about drafting our laws just for a few people that have a particular problem or ailment,” Branstad told his weekly news conference.

Branstad said other states which have loosened laws allowing marijuana for medical or recreational purposes have encountered “unintended consequences” in the aftermath. A total of 20 states and the District of Columbia have adopted prescription programs to dispense marijuana to patients with cancer, epilepsy or other medical conditions.

For one thing, the Iowa governor said a growing drug abuse problem in Iowa is the incidents of unauthorized people obtaining prescription drugs and he does not want to do something that would exacerbate that problem.

“I just think there’s a lot more study that needs to go on before we embark on this kind of an experiment,” he said.

Bills to legalize medical marijuana have been introduced in the Iowa House and the Iowa Senate but have died in committee.

Last week legislative leaders said they welcomed efforts to educate lawmakers about the medicinal merits of marijuana, but the practice is not going to be legalized any time soon.

Medical experts and family members of suffering patients have pressed lawmakers and Branstad this year about the therapeutic benefits of marijuana treatments for seizures and other forms of chronic pain. The governor said he feels sympathy for those families but feels there is a need to carefully review the implications of changing the state’s current policy barring legal marijuana uses.

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