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Iowa lawmakers should be commended this year for not only protecting the state's medical marijuana law, but for improving it.

As a result, more Iowans will have access to relief for conditions from which they suffer.

In 2014, the Legislature took an important first step on the issue of medical marijuana. Lawmakers passed a bill through which patients afflicted by epilepsy could possess an anti-seizure medicine derived from cannabis. Because we have compassion for these Iowans and because we have faith and confidence in Iowa's medical community and believe physicians should have, within a proper framework, the legal option to write a prescription for medical marijuana, we supported the bill.

At the time, in fact, we stated our support for future debate about extending Iowa's medical marijuana program to illnesses other than epilepsy. Last year, 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 remained illegal in the state to produce or distribute it.

The bill passed by the Legislature this year addressed expansion as well as production and distribution.

The bill:

- Allows for the production of cannabis oil at two locations.

- Legalizes the use of cannabis oil for additional conditions. In addition to seizures from epilepsy, the conditions covered in the expanded medical marijuana program include: cancer; multiple sclerosis; HIV or AIDS; Crohn's disease; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; Parkinson's disease; and any terminal illness with a life expectancy of under a year.

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- Creates an advisory board to review medical evidence and make recommendations to the state's Board of Medicine on what conditions should be added to the list of conditions and whether a tetrahydrocannabinol level of more than 3 percent should be allowed for certain conditions. The bill passed this year limits the amount of THC allowed in cannabis oil to 3 percent, which critics say limits the oil's potential to help individuals who suffer from conditions other than epilepsy seizures.

We understand some medical marijuana proponents do not believe the bill passed this year goes far enough, but we give credit to lawmakers for taking another step in the right direction on this issue.

We encourage more dialogue about ways to improve the state's medical marijuana program in future years.

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