Hatch proposes plan for medical marijuana in Iowa

Efforts at legalization of marijuana for medical purposes failed to get a floor vote this year

Mike Wiser
Published: March 26 2014 | 3:33 pm - Updated: 1 April 2014 | 10:12 am in

DES MOINES — Medical marijuana could be brought into the state under a proposal being worked on in the Iowa Senate and made public Wednesday.

Only people who suffer from seizures and obtain a prescription from an Iowa doctor could bring medical marijuana into the state and not risk prosecution by authorities.

“These are families who have tried dozens if not hundreds of different prescriptions, and for whatever reason, medical cannabis is helpful to these children and are changing their lives,” said state Sen. Jack Hatch, D-Des Moines.

Hatch held a news conference about the legislation Wednesday, flanked by three dozen parents and children. Many of the children suffered from seizure-inducing developmental disabilities.

Efforts at legalization of marijuana for medical purposes failed to get a floor vote this year, but there’s been movement in recent days at the Statehouse.

Last week, a bipartisan group of senators — five Republicans and five Democrats — introduced a resolution seeking a legislative study on the feasibility of legalizing medical marijuana in Iowa. Over the weekend, outgoing Republican Party of Iowa Chairman A.J. Spiker wrote an opinion page piece calling for the Republican Party to embrace legalization.

On Monday, legalization proponent Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, held a news conference with advocates from different parts of Iowa who asked lawmakers to continue their efforts.

It’s not clear how many people in the state would qualify under the legislation being proposed.

“It doesn’t matter if you help 10,” said Mike Heuck of Spencer, whose 12-year-old daughter began taking 24 pills a day when she was 17 months old.

“This is oil extract we’re talking about in a pill form. It’s not what everyone always thinks of when you talk about marijuana.”

Gov. Terry Branstad has been opposed to legalization efforts.

“Though the governor would need to see legislation in its final form, Gov. Branstad empathizes with individuals and families as they explore ways to treat medical aliments affecting them and their loved ones,” Branstad spokesman Jimmy Centers said. “He believes the state needs to exercise caution when considering loosening regulations on a substance and an action that is illegal federally.”

Added Centers: “As you know, moving federally illegal drugs across state lines is against federal law.”

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