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Hot Potato, Pot Potato: Iowa Legislature's Dilemma

Daily Dose 2010-11-18 0 comments

By Brinna Nanda, posted on her blog at Brinna’s Broadside

For many years, a man called Carl Olsen has made it his┬ámission to get cannabis rescheduled under the Federal Controlled Substance Act (CSA). His premise is simple: Federally, cannabis is classified, along with heroin and LSD as a Schedule I drug under the CSA. To earn such a classification, a substance, by definition, must have a high potential for abuse, be unsafe for use even under a physician’s supervision, and not currently be in use for medical treatment in the United States. However, cannabis is legal and in currently in use for medical treatment in 14 American states. Therefore, the statute which created the CSA mandates that the classification be changed to reflect current reality.

Carl Olsen, Founder of Iowans for Medical Marijuana

Simple and logical, yes? Well, apparently not to the Attorney General, in spite of the fact, that he is directed under the same statue, to revise the classification as necessary. Since the statute also allows the Attorney General to delegate this responsibility to the the Drug Enforcement Agency, he, and the long line of his predecessors have happily done just this.

Clearly, the DEA has no interest in a reclassification, and actively fights any and all lawsuits brought against it on this issue.

Not only does the DEA fight the suits, but when their own Administrative Law Judges rule in favor of the plaintiffs, the DEA overrules them. When cornered, the AG suggests, falsely, that it would take an act of congress to make any changes in the CSA.

Just about any of us can see the Machiavellian manipulation behind this, but few of us are inclined to do anything about it.

Which brings us back to Olsen, who has spent a lot of energy and a considerable amount of his own money suing the Federal Government to get the classification changed. He has been stonewalled, ignored, made fun of, slandered, but he doesn’t give up.

In a brilliant application of “think globally, act locally,” Olsen, a resident of Iowa brought a suit in state court against the Iowa Board of Pharmacy, to force them ┬áto follow the law, and make this very change in Iowa’s own version of the CSA which mirrors the Federal Government’s statute. Carl won in court. A Iowa state judge ruled that the Iowa BOP was required to review the parameters of the classification under the Iowa CSA. This led to a series of hearings which included a review of the science behind the claims.

As a result of the hearings, the Iowa Board of Pharmacy recommended that cannabis be reclassified Schedule II. Such a move opens the way for cannabis to be prescribed in Iowa as medicine.  The BOP recommended that the Iowa legislature set up as task force to create regulations to oversee the distribution of medical marijuana.

However, it seems the Iowa legislature, simply does not want to address the hot potato of medical marijuana, in spite of polls that show support for it by┬á62% to┬á64% of Iowans.┬áIn a tap dance worthy of Richard Gere in the movie version of the musical Chicago, Iowa House Majority Leader, Kevin McCarthy, dredged up an obscure and outdated law which was put in effect during the late 1970’s which said, in effect, that the BOP could reschedule without the approval of the legislature, and therefore the legislature didn’t have to deal with it.

The BOP, on the other hand, has indicated that is does not have the wherewithal to put in place necessary regulations surrounding the implementation of a medical marijuana program. According to BOP executive director, Lloyd Jessen, the board has no way of establishing a distribution system, nor of creating a list of qualifying conditions, nor of setting criminal penalties for violation, nor of putting a quality control system in place.

Olsen, in a┬ápress release, had nothing but praise for the Board of Pharmacy’s handling of the hearings, but said the tactic on the part of the legislature of passing the buck on an issue so crucial to the health and welfare of the citizen, made McCarthy a “poster child” for political cowardice.

Iowan’s may have to wait a little longer before their state approves cannabis as a medicine, but when they do, it will be because of the tireless effort’s of Olsen and citizens like him who refuse to take obfuscation as an answer.