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Guth and Gassman discuss impact of medical marijuana in Iowa

July 2, 2015
Amy H. Peterson - Staff Writer ( , Estherville News

Representative Tedd Gassman weighed in with Senator Dennis Guth on medical cannabis Monday.

Gassman said he would like to see the availability of cannabidiol (CBD) expanded for those who need it. "People who have ulcerative colitis, glaucoma, cancer, as well as those with epilepsy should have access."

CBD is an extract of the Cannabis sativa plant, which does not cause the psychoactive "high" associated with recreational marijuana, because it has had its levels of THC reduced to trace amounts. Makers of CBD, according to the website for Charlotte's Web cannabis, strive to keep the level of THC at 0.3% compared with the content of recreational marijuana, which is approximately 15-25%.

"I had more input on the medical cannabis issue than probably any senator." Guth said. He explained in the last session, contact with a tiny patient's family and a petition signed by over 250 people in the district asking him to pass legislation to legalize medical cannabis caused him to thoroughly research and work diligently on the issue.

"There is a family in the Forest City area with a child under two years old who went from having hundreds of seizures to only about two per week by taking cannabidiol," Guth said.

Guth supports moving CBD, including a strain called Charlotte's Web CBD, favored by many parents across the state, from a Schedule 1 to a Schedule 2 substance. "This will allow for easier testing," Guth said.

In the 2014 session, the Iowa Legislature passed the Medical Cannabidiol Act, which allows patients or parents of minor children with intractable epilepsy to possess a small amount of cannabidiol to treat epilepsy. It is illegal to manufacture, dispense, or transport cannabidiol in Iowa, however, and critics say the law is ineffectual as a result.

"I want to expand access to cannabidiol so we have people certified to grow, those certified to transport it and dispensaries across the state," Guth said. This plan would require high-level specifications, tight security, and heavy, expensive government oversight.

Gassman said, "My worry is of the law expanding so people can also smoke it. We need to keep it to just the oil and just for people with a diagnosed medical need for it."

Guth said of implementing expanded access this year, "It's very complex. It needs more examination. If we let the FDA approve the components, then we go to the regular pharmacy to get it with a prescription. There's no problem with someone having morphine if they need it, but that doesn't mean we should begin allowing opium sales in the street."

The family of the baby near Forest City received good news; they were able to get their testing license extended so they can continue to purchase it for the child.

Guth also reflected on Governor Branstad's move to close two of the major mental health facilities in Iowa. "I don't like that mental health care will be less available," he said, "but I can understand the governor looking at costs. It costs over $1,000/ patient/day to treat them in a state facility. We need to look at effective treatment at a lower cost."

"I'm glad I'm not the governor dealing with this," he added.



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