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State Rep. Bruce Hunternt of Des Moines introduced a bill that would allow Iowans with debilitating medical conditions to obtain and use marijuana without fear of arrest.
The Democrat's bill, H.F. 22, would allow patients with certain qualifying conditions, who have received recommendations from their physicians, to privately possess limited amounts of marijuana and grow – or designate a caregiver to grow – up to six marijuana plants in their homes.
A February 2010 Seltzer & Co. poll found that 64% of Iowans think the state should enact a law allowing seriously ill patients to use medical marijuana if their doctors recommend it. That same month, the Iowa Board of Pharmacy voted unanimously to recognize marijuana's medical value.
"Iowans clearly want our state policy to be sensible and rooted in evidence, that's why I'm introducing this medical marijuana legislation," said Rep. Hunter. "At this point, there's no denying that marijuana helps alleviate the symptoms of a host of terrible diseases, many of which are notoriously difficult to treat."
Qualifying conditions under the proposed law include: cancer; glaucoma; HIV/AIDS; hepatitis C; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS); Crohn's disease; agitation of Alzheimer's disease; nail patella; intractable pain that has not responded to ordinary medical or surgical measures for more than six months; wasting syndrome; severe nausea; seizures; and severe muscle spasms.
"There is a wealth of scientific evidence demonstrating marijuana is significantly less addictive and has far less severe side effects than the opiates and other narcotics these patients are taking now," Rep. Hunter said. "Common sense – and a vast majority of Iowans – dictates that we allow these seriously and sometimes terminally ill patients to use medical marijuana without fear of arrest or prosecution."
Under current state law, Iowans who use marijuana to treat their debilitating conditions and symptoms face up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine for a first-offense possession conviction. Subsequent arrests for possession of any amount can be punishable by up to two years in jail and a $6,250 fine. Private cultivation of a single marijuana plant in one's home is a felony in Iowa that carries a penalty of up to five years in prison.
"The bill introduced by Rep. Hunter will bring Iowa in line with a growing number of states that recognize the medical efficacy of marijuana," said Robert Capecchi, deputy director of state policies at the Marijuana Policy Project, the nation's largest marijuana policy organization. "There is no reason to let seriously ill patients continue to suffer in Iowa while the rest of the country adopts this type of sensible legislation."
Eighteen states and the District of Columbia allow patients with qualifying conditions to use medical marijuana with recommendations from their physicians. At least 10 more states are expected to consider similar legislation this year, and such bills have already been brought forward in Alabama, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, New Hampshire, and New York.