To the editor:
In 2010, the Iowa Board of Pharmacy unanimously recommended the Legislature consider legalizing cannabis for medical use. Legislation will be introduced this session to implement a medical cannabis program. This would allow physicians in Iowa to recommend medical cannabis to patients who have exhausted all other avenues of treatment.
While 20 states and the District of Columbia recognize cannabis as medicine, Iowa has been reluctant to update laws and continues its War on Drugs at a high cost to patients and taxpayers. Additionally, in a state with a proven track record as a leader in civil rights, in 2013 the ACLU reported Iowa ranks the worst in the nation for racial disparities in cannabis arrests despite equal use among racial demographics.
The DEA maintains cannabis is a dangerous drug with no medical value yet no deaths have ever been attributed to it and the scientific evidence showing it to have medical value continues to grow every year. In fact, our federal government owns a patent for its medical value, U.S. Patent 6630507, "Cannabinoids as Antioxidants and Neuroprotectants." The patent claims cannabis is useful in both the treatment and prevention of diseases such as Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease and HIV dementia; it is protective for neurodegenerative diseases (e.g. MS), stroke, traumatic brain and spinal cord injuries.
In the CNN documentary "Weed," Dr. Sanjay Gupta shared the story of a little girl named Charlotte Figi with a severe form of childhood epilepsy who suffered from 300 seizures a week. Years of FDA-approved treatments with opiates, steroids, barbiturates and narcotics failed to help. They then found cannabis. Charlotte is down to three seizures a month using a non-psychoactive oil made from the plant. Physicians in our state should have authority to recommend effective treatments to their patients.
Lawmakers have an opportunity this session to update Iowa's laws regarding cannabis, recognizing it as a legitimate medical treatment that should be left to the discretion of physicians and their patients. Science, medicine and compassion are bipartisan. Please contact your legislators and voice your support of medical cannabis in Iowa.