DES MOINES — A longtime crusader for medical marijuana has asked an Iowa judge to require the state Board of Pharmacy to revisit the issue of reclassifying marijuana as a substance that doctors would be allowed to legally prescribe for medical purposes.
Carl Olsen of Des Moines filed a petition in Polk County District Court challenging a November decision by the Iowa Board of Pharmacy not to consider an issue it took a position on in 2010 that was ignored by the Iowa Legislature.
Olsen is asking the court to set aside the board’s November 2013 ruling, to establish that marijuana has “accepted medical use in treatment” and to issue a writ requiring the pharmacy board to perform its duty to recommend removal of marijuana as a schedule I controlled substance in Iowa. The actions are opposed by attorneys representing the state board.
At issue is a 6-0 decision by the Iowa Board of Pharmacy in 2010 to recommend that marijuana be moved from a Schedule I classification to the list of Schedule II substances that have an accepted medical use and can, in some cases, be prescribed to patients.
Moving marijuana from a Schedule I to a Schedule II drug requires changes in state code, which the Pharmacy Board doesn't have the authority to do. A recommendation was made to the Legislature, which was not taken up, and the issue languished until the 2014 session when lawmakers approved a limited program that allows access to marijuana-derived cannabis oil for people dealing with severe epilepsy.
The new Iowa law legalizes the possession and medical use under certain conditions of cannabidiol, a non-psychoactive component of marijuana that backers say possesses a wide range of therapeutic benefits.
The measure gives prosecutorial immunity to people who possess cannabidiol, a non-smokable oil extract of marijuana with a low THC level to treat seizures. Patients or their caregivers are required to obtain a state-issued registration card to possess the drug and to have a neurologist’s recommendation to obtain the license. While Colorado has legalized marijuana, it’s illegal to take it out of that state and it’s illegal to transport it across Nebraska, Olsen noted.
“They’ve left this to a bunch of non-professionals who came up with a less-than-adequate solution. I think that is less than what we deserve,” said Olsen, who is seeking to return the discussion to the Board of Pharmacy and the medical implications of the controlled substance classification system.
“They say because they did that once, they’re no longer obligated to do it again even though they still feel that marijuana is misclassified,” Olsen said in an interview.
“I’m saying that as time goes by, the impact of that (2010) recommendation starts to deteriorate or wither or fade away and, if they don’t make the recommendation again that they’re not living up to the role that the Legislature assigned them in the statute to be the advisory board or to be the watchdog,” he said. “The board is there to protect us as the public when they see a need for something to be allowed for medicine, it’s up to them to say so.”