DES MOINES — Advocates for legalized medical cannabis use in Iowa are taking their cause to the 2016 presidential race.
The advocacy group Iowans 4 Medical Cannabis announced Tuesday it has developed a questionnaire that it plans to deliver to all the presidential candidates in the coming weeks.
The group already has made efforts to reach out to the campaigns and the candidates themselves during their visits to Iowa.
“Moms and dads across America want to know what presidential candidates are proposing to help the sick and suffering obtain medical cannabis, a proven plant that is made by God,” said Maria La France, a Des Moines mother whose 14-year-old son Quincy has epilepsy, one of the diseases that can be treated by the oil found in the marijuana plant.
Iowans 4 Medical Cannabis in recent years has had limited success pressing state lawmakers to create a comprehensive medical marijuana law.
The group will continue to press state lawmakers, but La France said it also will use the opportunity provided by Iowa’s prominent place in the presidential selection process to expand the message to the next president.
Volunteers for the group statewide will attempt to address the candidates in person while they’re in Iowa, and the questionnaire also will be delivered to each candidate’s campaign office.
“We have made a questionnaire to make it very simple for presidential candidates to tell us how they plan to help,” La France said.
The questionnaire contains four questions that mostly address whether candidates think the federal government should reclassify medical cannabis as a less dangerous drug. Such a reclassification would allow doctors to prescribe the product and allow for more research.
Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia have comprehensive medical marijuana laws, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Iowa is one of 17 states with a limited law. Iowa residents are allowed to obtain a prescription for medical cannabis for treatment of intractable epilepsy. But medical cannabis cannot be produced or dispersed in the state, and other state and federal laws make it virtually impossible for Iowa residents to obtain the product.
Sally Gaer, a West Des Moines mother whose daughter has epilepsy, said she has been able to approach many of the candidates already. She said she thinks their responses have been mixed: Some have expressed interest in the cause, and others have called for more research.
“I think they’re all going to be very careful,” Gaer said. “Hopefully, voter pressure and more public outcry will make them start to answer these questions and give thoughtful dialogue and not fall on the, ‘Oh, we need more research. Oh, it’s Schedule I. Oh, the war on drugs. Blah, blah, blah.’ They need to see the suffering of Americans and be willing to help.”
Gaer and La France said they think the more candidates to whom they can spread their message — that medical cannabis can ease the suffering of Iowans with myriad ailments — the better their chances of successfully swaying a presidential candidate.
“It is really sad. We’ve lost, I think, four people that have wanted medical cannabis for their disease and have been unable to access it and have since passed away,” La France said. “We’re not just talking about a social issue here. People are dying.”