Efforts to establish a medical marijuana program in Iowa took a step backwards at the statehouse Wednesday. A House subcommittee approved legislation that strengthens language classifying marijuana as a schedule one drug, which is defined as a substance having no proven or acceptable medical use and a high potential for abuse.

Representative Tom Sands, a Republican from Wapello, says the bill also makes it clear that the legislature has authority over the issue. “I do not support medical marijuana. I know there are those individuals out there that believe that it has helped them. I have no personal knowledge whether it has or has not helped them. Maybe it is up to medical professionals and the Board of Pharmacy to change our mind that we’re wrong,” Sands said.

Sands says any decisions about marijuana should be made by the legislature. “It’s quite often a gateway drug, especially for some of our younger people and more vulnerable…that it leads them into more hallucinogenic type drugs that do far more damage,” Sands said.

The Executive Officer of the Iowa Board of Pharmacy says the board agrees that any decisions about marijuana should be made by the legislature. Terry Witkowski says they never intended to establish a medicinal program.

“A pharmacy could not distribute marijuana because it’s an illegal drug federally and that would essentially put the pharmacy out of business,” Witkowski said. But a lobbyist for the Justice Reform Consortium says the Iowa Board of Pharmacy has already spoken on the issue.

 Stephanie Fawkes Lee says after a series of public hearings in 2009 the board voted to recommend that marijuana be reclassified as a drug that does have medicinal value. “And the Board of Pharmacy took the time and used resources to go across the state and have people come and say yes we do use this for medical reasons,'” Fawkes Lee said.

 “So, to have this bill introduced, it’s like calling those people liars. They were in pain, they have health issues and medical cannabis actually helps them.” Other supporters of medical marijuana are less concerned about the bill. Carl Olsen of Des Moines says it merely upholds existing law, and does not stop the Democratically controlled Senate from considering alternative legislation to reclassify the drug.