A native Iowan who helped create and oversee New Mexico’s medical marijuana program is hoping lawmakers here will adopt a similar law. Doctor Steve Jenison is scheduled to speak about the issue at a couple of public hearings in Iowa City and Des Moines. The 60-year-old Jenison is now retired, but previously worked for the New Mexico Department of Public Health and was appointed the first director of that state’s medical cannabis program in 2007.
The Ames native admits he wasn’t too excited about it at the time. “But, the more that I had opportunity in that capacity to talk to people who had benefited from the use of cannabis, the more that I became convinced that they were giving me a true and accurate representation of their experience,” Jenison says. Many residents of New Mexico who receive medical marijuana are battling cancer, HIV or AIDs, or suffer from seizure disorders.
Jenison says he met a lot of those individuals and found they had tried all kinds of medicines, but nothing proved as effective as cannabis. “I thought their experience was legitimate enough that the least we could do for them, as a society, would be to make it so they would not be liable for arrest and prosecution for the use of cannabis for these reasons,” Jenison says.
A medical marijuana program was adopted in New Mexico in 2007, but Jenison says it was developed over a period of seven years. He says he understands it’s a controversial issue, but Jenison is urging Iowa lawmakers to give it careful consideration. “I think it is a matter of compassion,” Jenison says. “I think there are a lot of people out there who truly benefit.”
An Iowa Poll, conducted by the Des Moines Register in 2010, found nearly two-thirds of Iowans think patients should be allowed to use marijuana as medicine if their doctors approve. Twenty states and the District of Columbia have passed laws to permit marijuana to be prescribed as a treatment for symptoms like pain and nausea that are often associated with chronic and fatal illnesses.
Here is the schedule of public forums where Jenison will make a presentation on the New Mexico Medical Marijuana Program:
Tonight (Tuesday, November 19), 7:00-8:30 p.m.
Iowa City Public Library, Room A, Iowa City
Monday, December 2, 6:00-7:30 p.m.
Des Moines Public Library,1000 Grand Avenue Des Moines.