Unless she can come forward with a better science-based proposal, Gov. Kim Reynolds was mistaken to veto the bipartisan bill that increased access to medical cannabis for Iowans suffering from debilitating health conditions.
My Dubuque constituents almost unanimously support acting now to ease the plight of our friends and neighbors, rather than making people move, cross the border or wait another 18 months (or longer) for greater relief. Unlimited cheap, lightly-regulated recreational marijuana will soon be available across the river.
The vetoed bill updated the definition of “pain” and redefined the dose of the psychoactive ingredient found in medical cannabis from a percentage to an amount measured in milligrams, the standard for all other medicines.
The legislation would have put a monthly cap of 25 grams on the amount of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) dispensed to an individual. Currently, there is no cap. (THC is the active ingredient in marijuana affecting brain function if smoked. Medical cannabis can’t be smoked.)
The governor claims the 25-gram level is excessive, but opinion varies and research is limited due to federal restrictions.
By comparison, an adult with rheumatoid arthritis can consume as much as 96 grams per month of the non-prescription painkiller ibuprofen, based on maximum recommended daily dosage of 3,200 milligrams. With that, patients are to be observed to ensure that the benefits do not exceed the risks, such as internal bleeding. THC does not have such serious side-effects.
A single 12-ounce can of Coca-Cola contains 39 grams of high fructose corn syrup, which leads to obesity and diabetes when over-consumed. A Super Big Gulp: 156 grams. Coke is not regulated by the Federal Drug Administration.
Access to the current program is also a problem. While some 3,600 patients have been approved for participation (80% for pain-related conditions), only 47 are from Dubuque County. Pottawattamie County, in western Iowa, has a similar population, but three times as many patients (147). Why? A dispensary is located there. Dubuque residents must drive to Davenport or Waterloo.
Another reason: Currently, only 784 Iowa doctors are willing to “sign the slip” allowing patients to access medical cannabis. Of those, only six physicians are in Dubuque County. Dubuque is the 10th largest county in Iowa by population, but tied for 21st — with five smaller counties — for number of doctors participating.
The bill I voted for expanded the number of conditions that can be treated with medical cannabis, such as terminal illnesses, and allowed physician assistants and nurse practitioners to certify those conditions, expanding access to more Iowans, including in rural areas.
Without these improvements, many Iowans are left to make do with ineffective treatments, increasing their use of opioids or other drugs that are addictive or have severe side-effects.
I would rather be too generous than too stingy with medical cannabis. The upside is significant and the downside is minimal, based on the testimony I have received.
One story: “I have degenerative disc disease and a rare condition that feels like having a very bad leg cramp in my neck that never goes away. I have tried every muscle relaxer, with no positive results. I currently get Botox treatments in my neck four times per year at approximately $4,000 per treatment, plus opiates, valium and sleeping pills. This has been going on for six years. It would be nice to have another option to at least try. I have heard that people from other states had amazing results.”
Republicans controlling the state legislature will not convene a special session to override Gov. Reynolds’ veto.
If the governor thinks she and her Medical Cannabidiol Board know better (Reynolds was AWOL during the session when she should have made her views known), then she should call legislators into special session herself and put a proposal on the table so we can vet it now rather than later.