Guest Post from Jason Karimi- Executive Director Iowa Patients for Medical Marijuana

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             As a former delegate to the Iowa GOP convention, I’d like to weigh in and clear up some confusion concerning the status of medical cannabis laws in the country that has been passed around over the past few years.

While attempting to reach out to House Leadership, our calls for private communication to clear these issues up were not only ignored and turned away but compounded by illegitimate statements made through the media. These statements can be quickly resolved with a basic review of case law and the Constitution – important information to be utilized by the party of limited government.

One of the main concerns amongst Republicans is that a lack of FDA approval means Iowa cannot pass an intrastate program as 28 other states and the District of Columbia have already done. Yet a quick review of the precedent setting case from 1987, Grinspoon vs. DEA, shows that this is not the case – states do not rely on the FDA for deciding what is and is not medicine. If the party of limited government wants to hide behind federal law, so be it, but that excuse is invalidated with a brief review of this case:

…Another possible reason for failure to obtain FDA new drug approval is that the manufacture, distribution, and use of a substance might not involve interstate marketing. [Footnote 10] Unlike the CSA scheduling restrictions, the FDCA Interstate marketing provisions do not apply to drugs manufactured and marketed wholly intrastate. Compare 21 U.S.C. S 801(5) with 21 U.S.C. S 321(b), 331, 355(a). Thus, it is possible that a substance may have both an accepted medical use and safety for use under medical supervision, even though no one has deemed it necessary to seek approval for interstate marketing.

— Grinspoon vs. DEA (1987)


So while we support the interstate cannabis program idea floated at the beginning of the session, this case must be included in the discussion of such a program. Regardless, an intrastate medical cannabis program — meaning within Iowa only — does not need nor require FDA approval for safety. We do not need Big Brother making our medical decisions. That decision has been decided already — definitively.

Another concern of Legislators is that without the go-ahead from the federal government’s new administration, something may go wrong. While the new President has expressly stated his support for medical cannabis laws – intrastate, not interstate – the Attorney General’s vocal personal opinions are irrelevant when presented with two important cases. In 2005, the US Supreme Court told medical patient Angel Raich that in order to resolve the state/federal conflict, there was a process in the Controlled Substances Act that needed to be followed. That process was explained in on page 28 in a footnote – this would not remove federal controls, but it would alleviate potential federal interference while opening the door to more research, making for a cooperative system of federalism rather than the civil war seen in other states around the country. The system was designed to work, in spite of other states refusal to respect the required process. From page 28 of the case:

…the CSA would still impose controls beyond what is required by California law. The CSA requires manufacturers, physicians, pharmacies, and other handlers of controlled substances to comply with statutory and regulatory provisions mandating registration with the DEA, compliance with specific production quotas, security controls to guard against diversion, record-keeping and reporting obligations, and prescription requirements.”

And on page 28, footnote 37 hinted that the remedy for federal interference being removal of Schedule I was ignored by cannabis lawyers for years – until Iowa lead the nation in resolving this issue in 2010 with the Iowa Board of Pharmacy’s expert panel recommendation that cannabis be reclassified and legalized in Iowa. Here’s the footnote’s relevant portion:

…the possibility that the drug may be reclassified in the future has no relevance to the question whether Congress now has the power to regulate its production and distribution.

So, removal of Schedule I is mandatory as part of the process of solving this state-federal conflict. Furthermore, the 2006 case Gonzales vs. Oregon explains that the Big Government solution of states kowtowing to the federal government’s decrees was actually prevented from happening when the CSA was enacted – states must lead the way, not the federal government – and the party of limited government direly needs this information. Closing off communication channels while making incorrect statements in the media about “fears” and “concerns” shows a lack of compassion, an unwillingness to do the necessary work to resolve this issue appropriately, and a close-mindedness that is based in fear of the unknown. From Gonzales vs. Oregon:

(“The Attorney General has rule-making power to fulfill his duties under the CSA. The specific respects in which he is authorized to make rules, however, instruct us that he is not authorized to make a rule declaring illegitimate a medical standard for care and treatment of patients that is specifically authorized under state law.”)

So, with a review of the basic case law, federal interference is a non-issue. Medical cannabis is going to happen. Inevitably. This is an issue about values, and as the truth will be set free, more people will get on board with supporting this issue.

While we are more than capable of avoiding the pitfalls of the other states, we need Republicans fully educated on this issue in the House in order to make the best decisions for Iowans. Please send this article to your representatives. You can find their email addresses on the “Find Your Legislator” page of the Iowa Legislature website. Send them this article to help us clear up the misinformation so we can get the illegal drugs off the street, into a legal control system, and out of the hands of criminals and teenagers. Children’s lives and futures are desperately depending on it, and there is no more time to waste.


Jason Karimi

Executive Director

Iowa Patients for Medical Marijuana