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CLEAR LAKE | Cassie Helland of Mason City occasionally leaned over and patted the head of her wheelchair-bound child who suffers from epilepsy.

Medical cannabis would help him immensely, she told House Majority Leader Linda Upmeyer, R-Clear Lake, and state Sen. Amanda Ragan, D-Mason City, at a legislative forum Friday.

She said she and her husband have to go to states where cannabis is legal in order to get what her son needs.

"How can you help us get it here?" she asked. "We can't go from state to state. We can't afford it. There's no reason a family should have to move to get the medication your son needs."

Legalization of medical cannabis and the proposed gas tax dominated the discussion at the forum.

Claudia Tillman, a retired teacher from Forest City, said medical cannabis could help her adult daughter.

"As a mom, I can't make her disease go away. I wish I could but I can't," she told the legislators. I would hate to have my daughter move out of state just to get the help she needs," said Tillman.

Upmeyer said Gov. Terry Branstad is consulting governors of other states where medical cannabis is legal to get insight on what Iowa should do.

She said there is a lot of anecdotal information available but she wants to look at studies to assess safety and quality of life issues.

Upmeyer, a registered nurse said, "Would I prescribe it? No, I wouldn't. I don't have the evidence to support it."

Of about 50 in attendance, six spoke in favor of legalization. None spoke against it.

Ragan and Upmeyer touched on a number of subjects, including education funding, health care and issues related to natural resources. But the proposed 10-cent gas tax drew a lot of attention.

Eldon Meyers of Clear Lake suggested alternatives such as higher registration fees for electric vehicles and taxes and fees on other things related to vehicles.

Upmeyer said, "If we shift the burden to tires and other things, we won't get the benefit of the road use tax from others using our roads," referring to out-of-state motorists who travel through Iowa and purchase gas.

David Underwood said he would like assurances that if the gas tax passes, it is used for "what you have been selling it for" — repairs of the state's roads and bridges.

Several residents expressed displeasure about how House Republicans maneuvered to get the bill out of committee so it could go to the House for a full vote.

At the last minute Thursday, Rep. Jake Highfill of Johnston, who opposes the bill, was replaced on the committee by Rep. Brian Moore of Bellevue, who favors it. The committee then approved the bill by a 13-12 vote.

Upmeyer said House Speaker Kraig Paulsen approved the change because the proposal had been supported by Republican and Democratic caucuses in both the House and Senate. For that reason he thought the bill deserved to moved forward. Earlier in the day, Paulsen also put himself on the committee.

Upmeyer said Friday the procedure may have seemed unusual but it has been done before. "And it was transparent," she said.

Ragan and Steckman will hold a listening post at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Mason City Public Library.

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