I sat in the House Gallery not once, but twice as Medical Cannabis came to the House Floor. The first time, I thought I was going to hear a debate on a Democratic amendment (because our original Bill for this year was stalled and killed in the Ways and Means committee by House Leadership) that would allow for expansion of qualifying conditions and would have allowed ACCESS IN IOWA - which is what every parent and patient have been asking for and advocating on behalf of for YEARS.
I sat in the Gallery in the last week of the session to learn that the Democratic Amendment was pulled by House Leadership and instead we heard a debate on Medical Cannabis that stunned those sitting in the Gallery hoping to have access to medicine for their children, their loved ones or for themselves.
What transpired was nothing short of being absolutely blindsided by a garbage truck. The Representatives who had countlessly told us they supported medical cannabis instead told us that we needed to go somewhere else. For the "source" of medical cannabis in the amendment was a direction to obtain it out-of-state. Democratic Representatives from across the state stood up on behalf of their Constituents explaining that this bill would fail those in their district and shared those facts as reason for voting against an amendment that would once again send sick and suffering Iowans out-of-state to get their medicine.
Note - My own Representative of Dallas County - Representative Watts- who had touted voting YES in the Commerce Committee and even went on a radio show stating that my son's story had changed his mind on medical cannabis DID NOT stand up on behalf of my son who cannot speak for himself - and in the end back tracked and told me that "With the possibility of Epidilex (sp?) being available later this year or in 2017 I think it is advisable to delay rushing headlong into growing and processing of oil in Iowa. As you know, many of the advocates don’t want to stop with the oil and will push for full blown marijuana. I think there is ample evidence that is not in the best interest of all Iowans." - but I will save that for another post entirely.)
When it was brought up to Representative Nunn (who brought this amendment to the floor) that this would be forcing families to risk Federal Prosecution he just proclaimed that we were already breaking Federal Law. However, the DEA has stated it will not go after medical cannabis users as long as we keep what we are doing for our children or ourselves within our own state's borders. Crossing state lines however, according to the DEA's website would be considered federal drug trafficking and could land an Iowan in prison for up to 5 years and up to $250,000 in fines. To continue to say to Iowans "We have sympathy for you and your loved ones BUT not enough to guarantee your medicine or your safety." goes against everything I thought were Iowa values - to care for your neighbors and your friends as you would yourself.
I sat in that Gallery as we were told that if the bill were to pass, we would have "immediate access" or that people with Cancer could have their medicine "tomorrow" or that we can just "get it through the mail". Except - the products that are legal hemp vs the products that people with Cancer and Auto-Immune Diseases NEED - CANNOT go through the mail, period. People with terminal illnesses will NOT get the medicine they need in another state without a Medical Cannabis Card and Residency IN THAT STATE so by touting that the "Republicans Voted for Medical Cannabis" is BEYOND WRONG but hey, for the uninformed Iowan - it sure sounds good, right?
In that Gallery, we were told we would have "immediate access" to oils in MN as soon as the bill was written into law. I think perhaps that our Republican lawmakers need to look up the definition to the words "immediate" and "access" and see that neither actually mean hurry up and wait and spend one weekend a month traveling out-of-state to get help. Ironically, just two days after the debate, the Governor of MN came forward stating he was relieved it did not pass and that it would put Iowans crossing state lines at risk for Federal Prosecution. How is it that the Governor of Minnesota has more concern over the legal issues of Iowans than our own Governor and our own House of Representatives?
As a parent who cannot work due to the fact that my child requires 24-7 care and we are living on one income, we cannot continue to risk Federal Prosecution just because our Republican House Members "sympathize" enough that they will let us possess it yet, they do not want to grant us access within our own state. Iowa is a huge agriculture state. We have a huge water quality issue. Our Governor wanted to strip our schools of money to fix our water. Do you know what could easily fund and fix both issues? Medical Cannabis.
My family cannot afford to take time off of work to drive our child North (or West) to continuously get help in other states and risk serious prison time by bringing our child's medicine home. We cannot simply "go back to Colorado" as Rep Fisher told a friend of mine, as well. If my husband lost his job, we would lose everything. We all know that trying to find employment as a Felon would make things even worse. We have already had to sell our home, sell our second vehicle and move into my mother's home to get the much needed help we required in raising a child with serious special needs outside of his seizures. Yet, our lawmakers don't think families like mine have given up enough yet.
Again, to say that the folks with Iowa's short list of "qualifying conditions" would have immediate access to medical cannabis is a mistruth at best. Just to follow Iowa Law - they would first have to find a physician who is willing to support it, sign for it, and put the application through the Iowa Department of Health before even attempting to go out-of-state. The entire application/approval for our Cannabidiol Registration Card took SEVEN MONTHS between the time a physician told us we needed cannabis to when we had the card in our hand.
I'm curious if the Iowa House Republicans even noticed that the MN law allows for possession of only 30 days worth of oils? Do they truly expect sick Iowans and parents of sick children to drive to another state one weekend a month? Who can afford that? Were they expecting Iowans to pay the fee to get our Cannabidiol Registration Card plus the $200 fee required by MN to obtain their medical cannabis card (if that were even allowed to take place)? Was MN willing to change their qualifying conditions to match ours or vice versa? Did they realize that MN Physicians must be certified with the Minnesota Department of Health before they can even certify patients? Are Iowa's Physicians willing to certify themselves in Minnesota's Medical Cannabis registry, just so they can send their patients somewhere else for help? Do our Iowa House Republicans even care that courtesy of Medicaid Privatization, families like mine can't even go to Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN for assistance anymore?
Iowa needs to help Iowans, plain and simple. We should not have to rely on our neighboring states to do for us what our own government should be doing. In 2014, lawmakers felt that children like mine should be able to possess this medication. I hope that by 2017, lawmakers will allow us access in our state.
Time is precious for sick people. Iowa House Republicans have continued to fail Iowa's most medically complex individuals. Our loved ones are not to be played as pawns in some sick political stunt. Those who are living in this nightmare WILL remember in November and the only thing families like mine can do now - is to make sure our story is heard loud and clear. We need to FLIP THE HOUSE.