VIDEO: Senate lawmakers taking quick action on medical marijuana bill

Lawmakers met during a subcommittee meeting Wednesday morning. (Photo: Steffi Lee)

Lawmakers in the Iowa Senate are taking quick action on a bill that would allow the use of medical cannabis in the state for more than a dozen conditions.

Both a subcommittee and the full Senate Appropriations Committee passed Senate Study Bill 1190, also known as the "Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Act." It now goes to the Senate floor for a debate.

"I just hope they go forward," Sally Gaer, an advocate for medical cannabis, said.

Gaer's daughter, Margaret, has Dravet Syndrome, which is a form of intractable epilepsy. She's been at the forefront with others, advocating for medical cannabis to be grown and produced in the state and used as a treatment for suffering Iowans.

"I'm excited that legislators have been willing to learn, have open minds and have been willing to move forward now and let Iowa be a leader in this," Gaer said.

She spoke during Wednesday morning's subcommittee meeting, saying that Margaret is showing progress ever since she started using Charlotte's Web Hemp Oil. Margaret is one of the 39 cannabidiol card holders under the state's current program, Gaer told lawmakers.

"This oil has improved our lives," she said. "She sleeps better, is more active, cognitively better and we have decreased two of her pharmaceuticals."

The state's medical cannabidiol program currently forces patients to obtain cannabis oil from out of state and sunsets this July. This bill repeals that end date.

The medical conditions covered under this bill include:

  • Cancer
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Epilepsy or seizure disorders
  • AIDS or HIV
  • Glaucoma
  • Hepatitis C
  • Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
  • Ehlers-Danlos syndrome
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Tourette's syndrome
  • Any terminal illness, with a probable life expectancy of under one year, if the illness or its treatment produces one or more of the following: intractable pain, nausea or severe vomiting, cachexia or severe wasting
  • Intractable pain
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Muscular dystrophy
  • Huntington's disease
  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Complex regional pain syndrome (type I and II)
  • Rheumatoid arthritis

The bill also legalizes the production and sale of medical cannabis in Iowa. It however, bans the smoking of marijuana, which a representative from the Iowa Patients for Medical Marijuana expressed concern about.

GOP Sen. Charles Schneider, of West Des Moines, is the key sponsor of the bill.

"This is not just a statement bill," Schneider said during the meeting. "This is something we would like to get through the House and down to the Governor's desk."

State Sen. Joe Bolkcom, a Democrat from Iowa City, thanked his colleagues for pushing this legislation forward.

"It really kind of takes from the best bills we've seen across the country and puts together a comprehensive set of conditions," he said.

But House Speaker Linda Upmeyer, R - Clear Lake, told reporters the bill is "pretty broad" and she hasn't really had a chance to look at it. She did

"I think we anticipated the bill would be a little more limited with some of the features perhaps, illnesses, content," she said. "We just have to look at because it's a little different than what we thought it might be."

But Upmeyer says "there's an opportunity to do more," beyond the House bill to end the current medical cannabidiol program's sunset date and allow cannabis-based drugs like Epidiolex if approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat epilepsy.

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