Fix the cannabis law

The Iowa Legislature last year approved a bill allowing epileptics to possess and use a certain form of cannabis (marijuana) oil that contains no THC, the psychoactive material that gives humans a buzz. The bill’s passage came after several parents brought their afflicted children to help lobby legislators who previously were oblivious to their plight. The children suffered seizures in their wheelchairs around the capitol rotunda, and the bill passed.

Except.

It contained no provision for those parents to access the oil, which they claim has had miraculous results in stopping the seizures. They cannot grow it or buy it. They cannot ship it in from Colorado or any other of the 22 states that allow marijuana to be used for medical purposes. Gov. Terry Branstad recently suggested that maybe the Iowans could get it from Illinois. That was a good joke, Illinois officials said.

It seems a cruel irony to pass a law that cannot be followed by good and decent people who are devastated by the illness of a loved one.

It is more than that. It is inhumane.

Nobody is going to die or get hooked on heroin by using a cannabis oil that has had the THC bred out of it. It is inconceivable to us why this cruelty continues.

Good, then, that the Iowa Senate is taking up a bill that would strike last year’s law and replace it with an expanded medical cannabis provision that would cover up to 12 illnesses, including epilepsy, cancer, Crohn’s disease and post-traumatic stress syndrome. The bill would also establish licensed growers and 12 distribution outlets in the state so that patients could access the drug legally — but only if a doctor prescribes it in writing, and the patient obtains a special card from the state allowing him to receive and possess the oil. Smoking marijuana would not be allowed.

The bill does not make the recreational use of marijuana legal.

Sen. Mark Segebart, R-Vail, was one of 12 Republicans in the Senate to vote for the bill last year. We hope he checks his deep heart and votes to allow suffering people relief that few other medications can provide without debilitating side effects for these express conditions. State Rep. Gary Worthan, R-Storm Lake, and Rep. Dan Huseman, R-Aurelia, voted against the bill. Perhaps they have learned more since last year so they can find a way to change their votes and support relief for people who are sick, with a doctor’s orders.

The Des Moines Register’s Iowa Poll reported this week that 70% of Iowans support the use of marijuana for medical purposes. Yet only 30% support full legalization for recreational use. That tells us that most citizens have thought through the issue. They have no objection to using marijuana for legitimate, compassionate reasons. They do fear what widespread marijuana availability would have on society, especially teenagers. It is a considered, conservative perspective that deserves to be respected.

Legislators might feel that opening the door a crack would allow the door to be blown wide-open to full legalization of recreational marijuana. That really is not the issue at hand. Patient suffering is. If medical marijuana could convert the 30% to the 70%, then we have a legitimate debate about recreational marijuana use. That is not the Iowa we know. It was not so long ago that you could not serve a mixed drink at a bar in Iowa, could only buy a bottle of wine at a state liquor store, and could not buy beer on Sunday. Iowa is not Wisconsin or Colorado. We grow corn, not weed, and we frankly don’t see that culture changing. It is clearly reflected in the polls.

Full legalization of marijuana is not on the Iowa horizon. A little bit more compassion might be. We urge our legislators to support the limited use of cannabis extracts on the prescription of a physician. Let physicians prescribe what is best for the ailment.

Put an end to the cruelty.


Quiet budget hearings

Let the record show that the Storm Lake City Council voted to increase taxes on residential property next year by 6%, and increase water/sewer fees even more. The vote took place on Monday. Nobody objected. Nobody even showed up for the public hearing. The Buena Vista County Board of Supervisors on March 10 will hold a hearing on a budget for next year that also increases property taxes while reducing spending. Nobody has raised a fuss. We would bet that the county budget will clear without complaint as well.

Yet people will complain when they get their property tax bill in the fall. How did this tax increase happen? Why? The answers are in all those number-packed stories we have been publishing for the past month, plus the public budget notices published in area newspapers. By the time the tax bill arrives, questions and protests are a tad late. Go easy on the county treasurer.