The Iowa Board of Pharmacy on Wednesday unanimously recommended that the Legislature legalize marijuana for medical uses.
In a 6-0 vote, the board also called for lawmakers to change the classification of marijuana to a Schedule II drug. Such drugs have the potential for abuse but also have accepted medical uses.
The board’s action makes it the first state pharmacy panel to take such a stance before either legislators or voters took steps to legalize marijuana. There are 14 states with medical marijuana laws, although regulations in New Jersey haven’t yet taken effect.
“One more time Iowa provides leadership,” said board member Peggy Whitworth.
The recommendation calls for the Legislature to create a committee that would propose how to administer a medical marijuana program in Iowa. The panel would include people who use marijuana for medical reasons as well as representatives from the Board of Pharmacy, other health boards and public safety organizations.
“What the Board of Pharmacy feels is important is that this isn’t just a one-group issue, but that we need to bring in all other disciplines and the patients,” said Susan Frey, a board member and pharmacist.
The recommendation came after the board held four public meetings last year and spent several months studying scientific research on the drug.
Board members don’t expect the Legislature to take immediate action during a shortened session that likely will end by late March.
“The probability (of immediate action) is not great,” said Edward Meier, another board member and pharmacist. “But it’s in the Legislature now.”
It wasn’t clear whether Gov. Chet Culver would support a legalization effort. A spokesman said Culver wouldn’t make a statement on the issue Wednesday.
Medical marijuana initially came before the pharmacy board in 2008 when the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa and Carl Olsen, co-founder of Iowans for Medical Marijuana, petitioned the board to remove the drug from the Legislature’s Schedule I classification.
The board rejected the request, then took up the matter again in 2009 at the order of a Polk County judge. The judge was responding to a petition filed by the ACLU and Olsen, ruling that the board must review the classification and decide whether marijuana has an accepted medical use.
The board again declined to reclassify marijuana but agreed to hold hearings and consider making a recommendation to the Legislature.
Olsen said he sees the recommendation as a victory.
“If you’re a medical patient and you use marijuana for medical purposes, and you get arrested, your jury is going to be a whole lot more sympathetic today than it would have been yesterday,” Olsen said. “All the work I’ve put into this has paid off.”
The ACLU said in a statement that it would likely drop its lawsuit, but Olsen said he would pursue the suit until medical marijuana is legalized in Iowa.
– Article from the Chicago Tribune.