A woman who is in chronic pain and a handful of other Iowans were at the statehouse Tuesday, asking for legal access to marijuana as a treatment for pain and nausea. A few others urged caution.
Lisa Jackson of Crawfordsville has fibromyalgia and suffers from both pain and fatigue. She told lawmakers marijuana is the only drug she’s found that gives her any relief. "My days are constant pain. I used to work. I used to take care of my family. I used to have a life. I just want my life back," Jackson said, her voice shaking with emotion. "I just need you guys’ help to get my life back."
Ray Henry of Des Moines suffers from Multiple Sclerosis and when the pain killers his doctor prescribed failed to work, he turned to marijuana. "I was actually arrested for less than a gram of marijuana back in 2005 and went to jail and did six days in county to get off of probation over it," Henry said.
Henry told lawmakers he could move to 13 other states and get marijuana prescribed for his pain because those states allow the medical use of marijuana. "I really feel that it’s time for Iowa to make a change," Henry said.
A few state senators sat in a small committee room at the statehouse, listening to Henry and the others testify. One lawmaker told the public it will take a while to get other legislators "comfortable" with the idea of dispensing marijuana for the treatment of debilitating diseases which cause chronic pain or nausea.
Senator Joe Bolkcom, a Democrat from Iowa City, is the bill’s author. While Bolkcom told the crowd the bill is dead for the year, he urged the group to keep talking with legislators. "People in this building respond and react to the concerns that people back home talk to them about," Bolkcom said, "And this bill is going to need the kind of grassroots acceptance around our state if it’s going to move forward."
Senator Merlin Bartz, a Republican from Grafton, supports the concept, but Bartz says the bill as it’s currently written is too broad. "There’s a gigantic difference between a bill that allows for the use of medical marijuana under the supervision of a physician, and a bill that…basically blows this can of worms wide open," Bartz says.
The bill Bolkcom authored would set up "compassion centers" around the state that would raise the marijuana and dispense it to patients who’ve been given an I.D. card showing they’ve been diagnosed with a debilitating disease.