Doctors press Iowa Senate to legalize medical marijuana

In Advocacy, Regulatory, Top Stories by David Silverberg

This week, doctors and marijuana users and experts explained to Iowa lawmakers how medical marijuana can be beneficial to some patients.

Thomas Carlstrom, a retired Des Moines neurosurgeon, said at the committee meetings Wednesday: “I think its time has come. I think the medical uses for marijuana are absolute, they are happening …I think we really need to give serious thought to approving it.”

Also adding his opinion was Frank Caligiuri, assistant professor of pharmacy practice at Drake University, who told lawmakers he feels the negative connotations connected to the word “marijuana” over the past few decades has contributed to the stimatization of the plant.

Several politicians agreed with the expert assessment. Iowa Senate Majority Leader Michael Gronstal, D-Council Bluffs, said he is convinced the scientific evidence is “pretty solid” on the health benefits of medical marijuana. As media reports note, “he believes that a focus on the issue this session will pave the way for future discussions by lawmakers.”

He went on to say: “I think it is pretty clear that there are some diseases – seizure disorders, epilepsy, people going through chemo – where it is clearly an appropriate treatment. Some legislators understand that and some still have resistance.”

Patients had their say, too. Connie Norgart, 59,  tried smoking marijuana last year to ease the chronic pain she suffered from post-polio syndrome. “Why did I take a chance at being arrested and being a criminal?” Norgat said. “Because I want a quality of life … I want to be able to play with my grandkids without pain.”

Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, introduced a medical marijuana bill earlier this year, but quickly declared it dead because of a lack of endorsement from Republicans.

Support for medical marijuana legalization is ramping up fast in Iowa. An Iowa Poll conducted by the Des Moines Register in late February found a majority — 59 percent — of Iowa adults support making marijuana legal for medical purposes, while 37 percent oppose the idea.