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040614Digitorial-Medical marijuana

In a Quinnipiac Poll released last month, 81 percent of Iowa voters said they support allowing marijuana use for medicinal purposes.

Include us among them.

Simply put, we have compassion for Iowans who suffer from diseases and disorders for whom medical marijuana might provide some relief and we believe the state should find a way to support them in more meaningful fashion than just sympathetic words.

We have faith and confidence in Iowa's medical community. Within the proper regulatory and distribution framework, we believe physicians in this state should possess the legal option to write a prescription for medical marijuana if he or she believes the drug would ease a patient's suffering from a health condition.

In states where medical marijuana is legal, doctors prescribe the drug for chronic pain relief, nausea from cancer chemotherapy, anxiety, muscle spasms caused by multiple sclerosis, poor appetite and weight loss caused by chronic illness, seizure disorders, and more.

Twenty states have passed medical marijuana laws. In another 13 states, legislation is pending or ballot measures exist to legalize medical marijuana.

Discussion of medical marijuana is picking up speed within the Iowa Legislature this year, but time is running out on the session. At this point, it's unclear if anything related to the issue will emerge from the Statehouse.

At a minimum, we encourage lawmakers to craft and Gov. Terry Branstad to sign a bill this year providing for at least limited use of medical marijuana before the session ends, then study and move toward an expanded program of legalized medical marijuana next year.

A proposal by State Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, strikes us as a good place to start.

Bolkcom proposes the state this year pass legislation allowing patients who suffer from epilepsy to legally possess an anti-seizure medicine derived from cannabis. In a meeting with Branstad on Tuesday, parents of children who suffer from epilepsy made the case for how cannabis oil would help their families meet the health challenges they face.

We wish to be clear: We do not support legalization of marijuana for recreational purposes. In our minds, recreational use is an entirely different conversation and an issue about which far too many questions and concerns exist.

The discussion we are having in this state today isn't about helping Iowans get high.

Rather, it's about helping Iowans who live each day with pain, discomfort and other effects of illness access a drug with potential medicinal benefit to them - safely and legally through a doctor working within a well-regulated system and perhaps at far-less cost than what they pay for other, less-effective drugs.

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