DES MOINES | Iowa parents of epileptic children said Tuesday they believe momentum is building that may result in a narrow provision for medical cannabis oil getting approved in the Legislature this session.
"We're hopeful that this might get done yet this year," said Maria La France of Des Moines.
She was one of 15 to 20 parents and children who met with Gov. Terry Branstad to plead that Iowa join other states that have approved at minimum legislation to allow low-psychoactive cannabis oil for epilepsy.
"He was extremely gracious and he mainly listened," she said. "He did express compassion and he expressed an openness to help us, provided we can find that this does not increase abuse. We have explained that the potential for abuse is limited with low THC oil."
West Des Moines Mayor Steve Gaer, who was among the group that met with Branstad, said he was encouraged that the governor said he would talk with governors in Alabama and Utah, where similar laws have been approved to decriminalize possession of marijuana-infused oil for treatment of epilepsy.
Several Iowa senators are working on a bipartisan measure to allow Iowans who have a doctor's recommendation to buy cannabis oil in states where it's legal and possess it in Iowa without facing prosecution. La France said she has been told similar legislation is being worked on in the Iowa House as well.
"Sick people are not criminals. Sick people should not be deported to other states just because they have an illness," La France told reporters after the meeting with Branstad.
"Our children have run out of options. We want freedom from persecution for trying to prolong our children's lives," she added.
Branstad told reporters during his weekly news conference Monday that he is empathetic to those with medical problems but that he wants to balance their needs in an appropriate way that does not create an unintended consequence of increasing drug abuse in Iowa.
After Tuesday's meeting, Branstad spokesman Jimmy Centers said the discussion was cordial and that the governor listened and empathized with family members who are seeking treatment for the medical conditions affecting their loves ones.
"Like most bills, the governor didn't threaten veto, but indicated he reserves judgment until he sees legislation in its final form," Centers added.