The Iowa Senate passed a bill legalizing marijuana for medical use today by one vote, 26-19. Republican Senator Brad Zaun of Urbandale joined 25 Democrats in voting for the bill, while one Democrat, Tod Bowman of Maquoketa, voted against it. The bill’s future in the Republican-controlled House is uncertain.
Senator Charles Schneider, a Republican from West Des Moines, had offered an amendment to reclassify marijuana to would allow doctors to prescribe it as a treatment and allow medical research. That amendment failed and he said he can’t support the bill.
“Some day I may be comfortable with a state program, but until some of these other issues are addressed, until we know that we can address them through a state program, then I think we ought to go through the same process that any other prescription medication does so we can treat this like a prescription drug,” according to Schneider.
Senator Mark Chelgren, a Republican from Ottumwa, credited Democrats for listening and working to make changes to the bill, but he also said he still has concerns that marijuana hasn’t gone through the FDA process for medical use.
“The bill doesn’t define anything with regards to the qualifications. The bill doesn’t define anything with regards to the liability, the bonding side of it. And quite honestly, large pharmaceutical companies aren’t going to be doing this,” Chelgren said. “I think that there will be quite a few people who will step up and say ‘I want to grow or I want to dispense,’ but I’m not sure any of those companies will actually have the financial wherewithal to take care of our citizens if something goes wrong.”
Chelgren said the bill does not address any of those concerns and has gone away from being a bipartisan compromise.”This is a political bill that is simply to say to the House, ‘shame on you if you don’t do it our way.’ That’s really disappointing, because that is not what this should have been about,” Chelgren said.
Senator Matt McCoy, a Democrat from Des Moines, responded in support of the bill. “And I strongly disagree with the previous speaker who indicated that he believed that this was a political bill — I do not believe that,” McCoy said. “I believe that the courage demonstrated by the families that have been here for really the last two sessions pleading their case to this legislature is about courage. Their courage to come here day-after-day and to plead their case on behalf of their children.”
McCoy said approving the bill will keep the issue moving forward. “I believe that sick Iowans deserve this treatment. I believe that this measure, when it goes to the House, will be a strong indication to the state of Iowa and all those Iowans who so strongly support this measure, that it will move the House,” according to McCoy.
Senator Bill Dotzler, a Democrat from Waterloo, said senators are elected to do the will of the people. “And this is the first issue in my 19 years that I’ve ever seen the public so affirmed about why we should pass a piece of legislation. Never has it reached this type of support on any issue,” Dotzler said.
Dotzler said the legislature has to move the issue forward for those who are in need of the help that medical marijuana will provide. “And if we wait and say ‘okay federal government we want you to do it,’ Iowans won’t have the same opportunity to get the health care they need like 23 other states do, and over a million Americans have these medical marijuana cards. And we’re saying our surrounding states are okay, but we’re afraid here and we want to put it off,” Dotzler said.
Republican House Speaker Kraig Paulsen of Hiawatha has said he has no plans to consider medical marijuana in this session.