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Medical marijuana unlikely to advance in Iowa

By: CATHERINE LUCEY
February 18, 2014 Updated: February 18, 2014 at 3:20 pm
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DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A bill to legalize medical marijuana was introduced Tuesday in the Democratic-majority Iowa Senate, but supporters said it will not advance this year because of a lack of bipartisan support.

Democratic Sen. Joe Bolkcom, of Iowa City, said he needs Republicans and Democrats from the state House and Senate to support the bill. So far, he said, the GOP members have shown little interest in publicly endorsing the legislation.

"This is not a partisan issue. We need solid support in all four caucuses to move this effort forward," said Bolkcom, who has pursued medical marijuana legislation several times during the last decade. "We need to walk hand in hand to create policies that help people."

Under the measure, patients with certain medical conditions could obtain medical marijuana with a prescription from a physician and authorization from the state.

Parents of children with epilepsy spoke in favor of the bill at a news conference Tuesday, saying that in other states children with similar conditions had found relief taking marijuana in an oil form.

"Our son Quincy suffers from horrible seizures that affect his quality of life and our quality of life," said Maria La France, 45, of Des Moines, who brought her 12-year-old to the news conference in the Iowa Capitol. "People in other states have had great success with medical cannabis. Please, Iowans, let this bill get to a hearing so we can discuss this important issue."

Twenty states, as well as the District of Columbia, have legalized medical marijuana, which advocates say eases the symptoms of illnesses such as cancer, Parkinson's disease and multiple sclerosis. Among nearby states, Michigan has a medical marijuana program and Illinois started one in 2014. But in general, most of the states with medical marijuana laws are clustered in the eastern and western parts of the country.

A 2010 poll conducted for The Des Moines Register showed that 64 percent of Iowa residents favored legalizing medical marijuana. Republican lawmakers, who control the state House, have shown little interest in the issue. Jimmy Centers, a spokesman for Republican Gov. Terry Branstad, said the governor does not think increased use of marijuana is good public policy, though he said he'd have to see final version of a bill before commenting on any legislation.

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