Think what you want about medical marijuana. But in Iowa, thank or condemn Gov. Terry Branstad for an Iowa Board of Pharmacy decision that keeps cannabis away from Iowans who believe it can relieve their epilepsy, nervous disorder and other illnesses, rather than symptoms? symptoms.

Branstad appointees dominating the Iowa Pharmacy Board declined to reclassify marijuana in a way that could lead to some medical uses. The board voted unanimously for the reclassification in 2010 before Branstad put his appointees on the board.

Filling boards is a governor’s prerogative. So naturally, this board reflects his preferences. On Wednesday, the board clearly expressed Branstad’s preference that families of sick Iowans move to another state.

The reclassification wouldn’t have legalized marijuana for recreational or even therapeutic uses. That remains up to the legislature.

The Pharmacy Board merely was asked to distinguish it from other Schedule I drugs like LSD, with “no proven or acceptable medical use and a high abuse potential…” It would have allowed “authorized research only,” according to the board’s website web site.

Advocates hoped to have it reclassified as Schedule II, which “includes narcotic drugs with a high potential for abuse but with currently accepted medical use in treatment. (opiates, cocaine, methadone, meperidine).”

That’s far more restrictive than Iowa considers narcotic cough syrups and ephedrine, pseudoephedrine, and phenylpropanolamine products, which are classified as Schedule 4.

The Pharmacy Board seemed to miss the point entirely, with some members protesting it could not implement a medicinal marijuana program. No one asked it to.

Instead, they were asked to determine if marijuana, unlike LSD, does have definitive medicinal value. On Wednesday, the Pharmacy Board ignored Iowans who testified that it does.

Branstad candidly confessed his ignorance last week when he expressed common fears about unregulated medicinal marijuana flooding a black market.

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“I just think there is a lot more study that needs to go on before we embark on this kind of an experiment,” Branstad said last week.

Branstad’s Pharmacy Board could have rescheduled marijuana to allow more study. Without the reclassification, that can’t happen.

As to the Iowans who said they need the marijuana medicine readily available in other states, Branstad politely said good-bye.

“I think we have to be careful about drafting our laws just for a few people who have a particular problem or ailment. If they feel that this is the only course of action for them I suggest that is the decision they have to make,” he said.

Black market marijuana remains readily available in every Iowa town and almost every school as it has for decades, despite hundreds of millions of dollars in enforcement efforts and thousands of jailed Iowans. This week, Branstad’s Pharmacy Board members told sick Iowans to continue to risk dodging this selective, ineffective enforcement, or leave the state.

That’s no answer for families eager to comply with Iowa laws, not break them.

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