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Iowa Capitol

The Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines is shown in this 2012 file photo.

In 2014, the Iowa Legislature took an important first step on the issue of medical marijuana. Lawmakers passed a bill through which patients afflicted by epilepsy can legally possess an anti-seizure medicine derived from cannabis.

Because we have compassion for Iowans who suffer from diseases and disorders for which medical marijuana might provide some relief and because we have faith and confidence in Iowa's medical community, we believe physicians should have, within a proper framework, the legal option to write a prescription for medical marijuana.

In fact, we not only supported the 2014 bill, but we stated our support at the time for future debate about extending Iowa's medical marijuana program to illnesses other than epilepsy.

During last year's legislative session, we encouraged lawmakers to legalize production and distribution of cannabidiol in Iowa, at least for use by epilepsy patients. This, in response to reasonable concerns expressed by Iowans about the fact the 2014 bill didn't address production and distribution of the drug within the state. In other words, the legislation allowed an Iowan to legally possess the drug for treatment of epilepsy, but it remains illegal in the state to produce or distribute it.

We return to this issue today because, without legislative action, the 2014 legislation will expire on July 1.

In other words, lack of action returns the state - and those who suffer from epilepsy and other illnesses for which medical marijuana might help - to square one.

Because we do not wish to see the state take a step back in this area, we encourage the Legislature this year to, at a minimum, extend the 2014 legislation and include production and distribution.

If discussion of expanding Iowa's medical marijuana program to include other illnesses is preventing anything from happening for epilepsy patients this year, then lawmakers should put such expansion on hold.

What they shouldn't do, however, is abandon the state's existing medical marijuana program - and, by extension, those Iowans it seeks to support - altogether.

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