Make no mistake. Medical marijuana is a political, not health care decision, and the politics get ripe today.

The Iowa Pharmacy Board convenes in Des Moines today to consider a policy change that could open the door to more medical marijuana research and use.

In 2010, this board recommended making marijuana a Schedule 2 substance available for medical research. Two years later, Gov. Terry Branstad had filled the board with his own appointees who stalled consideration of removing marijuana from the list of Schedule 1 substances.

That equates marijuana with other Schedule 1 substances like LSD and peyote. The board needs to push the legislature to reclassify it as a Schedule 2 substance, like heroin and cocaine – addictive, for sure — but suitable for regulated research and medical uses.

So these Pharmacy Board appointees must first discern the governor’s will before considering the merits of medical marijuana. While plenty of evidence exists to support marijuana research, figuring Branstad out will take some work. Branstad continues to support the costly and ineffective war on drugs, ignoring important distinctions, for example, between meth traffickers and medicinal marijuana home-growers.

Yet Branstad succumbed to political pressure and signed legislation making one form of marijuana extract legal for one type of ailment. His approval of cannabinoid extract for some epilepsy patients should make the board’s decision easier. How can it discourage medical marijuana research when the governor already authorized one medicinal use?

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If medical care is the board’s primary concern, its decision already has been made.

Iowa’s Pharmacy Board should ignore politics today. Its job is not to justify or condemn medical marijuana use, dispensaries or enforcement. Its job is to evaluate the suitability of marijuana for helpful medical research.

We urge this medical board to catch up with Iowans who already are in possession of state-issued cannabinoid cards. Acknowledge the medical benefits Iowans already are experiencing and clear the way for research that can help more.

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