Michaela Cossolotto

Laura Cossolotto of Centerville, Iowa, pushes her daughter, Michaela, in a wheelchair at a 5K fundraiser for Dravet.org. Michaela suffers a rare form of epilepsy called Dravet syndrome.


Stories of children suffering rare forms of epilepsy and other ailments weren't enough Wednesday to convince an Iowa board to recommend a medical marijuana program for the state.

Laura Cossolotto of Centerville told the Iowa Board of Pharmacy about her 17-year-old daughter, who has Dravet syndrome. She said her daughter takes 100 pills a week and still suffers bouts of seizures that sometimes last more than six hours.

"We've run out of options," Cossolotto said.

Another Iowa family petitioned the board in January to write rules to reclassify marijuana. Iowa law, like federal law, says marijuana has “no currently accepted medical use.”

Dozens of parents, patients and doctors spoke at board meetings last week and Wednesday morning. Within an hour of hearing their testimony, the board decided Wednesday that it won't rewrite rules, the board's executive director Lloyd Jessen said.

"The board has no authority to authorize growing marijuana, let alone establish a program for licensure and regulation of producers and distributors," the board's written ruling signed by chairman Edward Maier states.

Cossolotto believes the board is passing the buck on to the state legislature.

Any new proposed medical marijuana bill will have to wait until 2015. A bill introduced last month by Sen. Joe Bolkcom of Iowa City wasn't taken up.

Fears of abuse are being overblown, Cossolotto said.

"It's very disappointing to know severely ill Iowans are not being allowed medical marijuana because of pot abuse," she said.

She told the board that one of the pharmaceuticals her daughter takes is a narcotic. "Apparently that's better than a plant," she said.

She was joined by Sally Gaer of West Des Moines, who shared that her daughter takes four anti-convulsive drugs, including one controlled substance and one that's imported from France.

"She still has seizures," Gaer said of her daughter, adding the pharmaceuticals have "very high" side effects.

Gaer said she believes the board made up its mind before hearing from parents Wednesday.

"It's very apparent they're following the directive of the governor," Gaer said.

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad reiterated his stance against medical marijuana at a press conference Monday.

The pharmacy board has changed its composition since 2010, when it recommended the legislature reclassify marijuana out of being a Schedule I controlled substance. That recommendation had come about after a series of public input hearings around the state in 2008 and 2009.

Only two of the 2010 board members remain. The other five members of the seven-member board were appointed by Branstad, a Republican. 

Maria La France of Des Moines, who petitioned the pharmacy board in January, said she was "completely perplexed" by its decision.

"With all the national attention and recognition that cannabis has medical value, the board takes this step backwards in history," La France said.