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MASON CITY | An advocacy organization presented its case Wednesday night for what it says are potential benefits for legalization of medical cannabis.

Dr. Steven Jenison, the former head of the New Mexico Medical Cannabis Program, spoke to about 25 people at the Mason City Public Library on Wednesday evening.

Iowans 4 Medical Cannabis organized the forum, one of three it is holding around the state this week.

Some who attended spoke of a years-long struggle to help their children through painful and chronic medical problems with what they considered potentially harmful medications.

"We have seen her suffer and suffer," said Jacqueline Loats, 46, who spoke of her now college-age daughter who has battled Crohn's disease since childhood.

"I can't see why this can't be given a try," she said. "We have lived in the doctor's office and the hospital."

State legislation passed last year made it legal to possess an oil form of the medical marijuana called cannabidiol, or CBD, but not access it.

The Democratic-controlled Iowa Senate passed a bill in April to set up a program similar to Minnesota’s, which began July 1, but it was not brought up in the state's Republican-controlled House.

House Speaker Kraig Paulsen called the Iowa proposal “virtually a recreational use bill.” House Majority Leader Linda Upmeyer said she believes the state should not approve the medical cannabis oil before the federal government. And Republican Gov. Terry Branstad said he is concerned about potential unintended consequences of an expanded program.

Citing New Mexico figures, Jenison told the crowd that applications for that state's medical cannabis program in 2015 were being driven overwhelmingly by patients citing post traumatic stress disorder -- at 45 percent of applications -- and chronic pain -- at 26 percent -- as their medical reason for seeking a legalized form of marijuana.

In June, an analysis published in the Journal of the American Medical Association stated medical marijuana had not been proven to work for many illnesses that state laws have approved it for, but that more research was needed.

The strongest evidence was for chronic pain and for muscle stiffness in multiple sclerosis, according to the review, which evaluated 79 studies involving more than 6,000 patients. Evidence was weak for many other conditions, including anxiety, sleep disorders and Tourette’s syndrome.

"We know that any (medication) for any given condition doesn't work for everyone," Jenison said after the meeting. "It seems like the least we can do" is consider de-criminalization options for people wanting to try it as a potential treatment.

Twenty-three states, including Illinois and Minnesota, along with Washington, D.C., have legalized medical marijuana and set various restrictions on state residency requirements and which medical conditions qualify for each program.


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