By Alizeh Siddiqui, Marijuana Policy Project
DES MOINES, IA — The Iowa Board of Pharmacy is considering renewing its recommendation that the state reclassify marijuana in a way that would make it easier to use the substance legally for medical purposes, following a hearing in the state’s capital Monday where patients, medical professionals, and drug-abuse prevention specialists testified about whether Iowa should relax its strict ban on the use of medical marijuana.
“We’re in a bit of a predicament,” board Chairman Edward Maier told several dozen people who gathered for the Des Moines hearing, noting that Iowa law currently classifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug.
A similar proposal failed to gain traction in 2009 when the board recommended that state legislators reclassify marijuana as a Schedule II drug, which would make the substance legal with a physician’s recommendation.
Edward Hertko, a retired Des Moines physician and longtime proponent for making marijuana legal, said opponents have falsely characterized marijuana as addictive and as a gateway to harder drugs.
“Its hazards pale when compared with alcohol and tobacco,” he told the pharmacy board. “In fact, marijuana is less deadly than sugar, which causes thousands of deaths each year from obesity and diabetes,” he said.
In addition, Lori Tassin, a cancer patient also from Des Moines, said she believes the substance can shrink tumors and provide other medical benefits.
“It should be my choice,” she told the board. “It should be between my doctor and me.”
The entire Iowa Board of Pharmacy will further discuss the issue Wednesday. Moreover, Maier, a Mapleton pharmacist, noted that the board does not have the authority to make medical marijuana legal. However, he did state that the board could advise Iowa state legislators on the issue.
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