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It's Time Iowa Legalized Use of Medical Marijuana

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With the Vermont governor's signing of a bill this month to legalize medical marijuana, eight states have now approved the sale and use of marijuana for medical purposes. But today in Iowa, a person who is found to possess even small amounts of marijuana that they might use for bona fide medical problems is subject to arrest and time in jail -- not to mention the costly legal expense to hire an attorney, take time off from work and possible jeopardy to a career.

In my own practice as a physician and psychiatrist, I work with persons who suffer from such maladies as chronic pain, cancer, nausea and neurological disease -- who use marijuana to help relieve their symptoms. Some find that marijuana augments the effectiveness of prescribed medicines. Patients tell me how marijuana helps with spastic muscles, difficulty sleeping, headaches, and even relaxation.

I caution them regarding the laws and the seriousness with which many law enforcement officers take their job to stop the use of this currently illegal substance. Those who continue to use marijuana, in spite of my concerns for their legal safety, do so because traditional medicine may not have helped or may have caused uncomfortable side effects.

A longtime advocate for medical marijuana in Iowa has been Dr. Ed Hertko, a retired internist and founder of Camp Hertko Hollow, a residential camp for children with diabetes. Dr. Hertko is no knee-jerk liberal. He has spoken for at least the last 30 years regarding his conviction that marijuana is safer and less addictive than many prescribed medications. At an August 2009 hearing before the Iowa Board of Pharmacy, Dr. Hertko reported that medicalizing the currently illegal substance "has nothing to do with drug users who simply want to get high. The people who want recreational marijuana already know how to get it."

In February of this year, our Board of Pharmacy in Iowa voted unanimously to officially recognize the medical value of marijuana and further recommended that the Legislature re-categorize it to Schedule II, giving physicians the right to prescribe it. And while the members of the Board of Pharmacy could have made the change in schedule themselves, they chose to delegate the controversial matter to our Legislature.

While in my native Colorado on vacation last summer, I took the initiative to visit two marijuana dispensaries, where patients with approved medical cards can obtain their legal substance in a variety of forms. One was in Breckenridge, where possession of small amounts of marijuana is now legal for any reason. In Durango, two young women were the sole sales crew at a dispensary. I introduced myself as a physician and asked for a tour.

As I do not have the required medical card, I was not allowed to enter the room where they dispense the products, but was allowed to poke my head in as they gave me a tour from a distance. One of the young women stood behind a glass counter and pointed out the traditional marijuana flowers, as well as soft drinks, suckers, dips and a variety of other forms to consume the product. It struck me as strange how friendly and low-key the whole operation was.

Dispensaries such as this are now scattered throughout Colorado and other states -- having received legal approval by the respective states, while bucking federal law. In 2009, U.S. attorneys were advised not to go after anyone who was in "clear and unambiguous compliance" with state law.

With medical marijuana we can tax the industry and control the quality and purity of the product -- making it safer and more predictable for those whose doctors have chosen to prescribe it for them.

The time has come for the Iowa Legislature to approve the use of marijuana for legal medical purposes. Debate continues about how effective marijuana is for certain disease states. Regardless of your view on marijuana for so-called "recreational" purposes, people with medical problems that respond to marijuana should not be kept waiting. Those who now use it to treat real medical problems should not have to fear facing arrest.

Let physicians and their patients decide.

News Hawk- Jacob Ebel 420 MAGAZINE
Source: desmoinesregister.com
Author: David E. Drake
Contact: Contact Us
Copyright: DesMoinesRegister.com
Website: It's time Iowa legalized use of medical marijuana
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