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Over the years we have generally supported the legalization of certain marijuana derivatives for some medical situations. That’s simply been a matter of empathy – supporting the further use of potential medicines that have been shown to relieve some levels of pain and suffering.

It’s also an issue that has been discussed many times over the years at the Iowa Statehouse. Prior to last year, the issue had been left for dead in past legislative sessions. Then, lobbying efforts by parents of children with seizure disorders, often associated with epilepsy, kept the issue alive during the last session.

Finally, a proposal got through the Legislature and Gov. Terry Branstad signed a bill into law last year that allows for the use of oil derived from marijuana to treat chronic epilepsy.

Getting that very narrow use of cannabidiol -- a chemical component of marijuana believed to have medicinal value without a high -- was a tribute to the persistence of advocates.

Many of those persistent people were at the Capitol rotunda during the law signing last year. They were parents and children – many in wheelchairs. They are those who are impacted by the effects of epilepsy and seizures, and they fought long and hard to see that law approved.

“I am elated and so incredibly happy to see the governor put his name down on that piece of paper for this bill,” April Stumpf, of Riverside, said at the time. Her daughter, now nearly three years old, suffers from epilepsy. “This is truly an amazing day.”

It was indeed a feel-good time for many supporters.

However, as everyone quickly found out, the law did not provide any way for the creation or distribution of the extract in Iowa. It’s made in other states, Illinois among them, but is illegal to transport across state lines.

In other words, the efforts that went into passing that last bill have, for all intents and purposes, been rendered futile.

During an editorial board meeting at The Courier last week, Sen. Bill Dotzler, D-Waterloo, said the law “has not helped one Iowan.”

This year, a bill was introduced that could expand the law to allow access to it, and also expand the conditions under which it could be used.

Our lawmakers should be taking the opportunity to fix this law -- at least so it rises to the spirit it was intended: helping Iowans with painful and debilitating conditions.

As reported in May of last year, Branstad said he approved of the measure after consulting with other governors in conservative states who have signed similar measures. He said the bill strikes an appropriate balance of oversight, regulation and empathy in providing narrowly targeted immunity in Iowa for the possession of the extract as a treatment for chronic epilepsy.

Except that the empathy facet rings hollow if no one can obtain the medicine to use it.


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