The Iowa Board of Pharmacy on Monday refused to recommend legalizing the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. Licensed pharmacist Susan Frey chairs the seven-member board and said advocates had failed to prove the drug’s medicinal benefits.
"We need science based evidence that there are acceptable uses and that those uses are within the realm of safety for the public," Frey said.
One advocate called the board’s decision "blockheaded." Carl Olsen of Des Moines says using the drug to ease chronic pain is a victimless crime. "Why can’t we allow people to use this? I mean who’s going to be abusing marijuana that’s not already abusing it? Why are sick people going to jail? That doesn’t make sense to me," Olsen said.
The group "Iowans for Medical Marijuana" had petitioned the board to remove the drug from the state’s list of controlled substances. A district court judge in Polk County ruled the Board of Pharmacy did not have that authority, but was obligated to make a recommendation to the legislature. Olsen says he believes the tide is turning in his group’s favor.
"Public opinion polls nationally are running 80 to 90% in favor of this and they’re starting to get close to 50% on flat out legalization," Olsen said. "It’s inevitable, one way or another it’s happening."
Olsen says he will appeal the board’s decision in court but admits the Iowa Legislature is the true battle ground. A bill to legalize medical marijuana failed to advance at the statehouse this spring. Guthrie County pharmacist DeeAnn Wedemeyer-Oleson says she’s not swayed by action taken in 13 other states to legalize medical marijuana.
"I liken this a lot to when I was a junior in high school and I pleaded to my dad that the time I should be allowed to stay out at night should be extended to one o’clock in the morning," Wedemeyer-Oleson explained.
"I said, I was a junior in high school and all my other friends got to stay out until one o’clock in the morning. And he said, ‘well if all of your friends jumped off the bridge, does that mean you should jump off the bridge?’"
Just last week, the Illinois state senate voted to legalize medical marijuana – sending the legislation to the house.