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A major sticking point among those opposing easier access to cannabidiol – the oil extracted from marijuana — for extremely ill Iowans has been the failure of the federal government to reclassify it for prescription use.

Ill Iowans and their supporters have been literally begging for several years for the Legislature to make cannabidiol more readily accessible in the state, especially for epilepsy patients. It’s been shown to reduce the number of seizures significantly, and stories about those who need the medicine have been heartbreaking. Iowa passed a relatively useless measure allowing its use but not making it available. Some families have even moved to states where it’s available.

Now, to his credit, U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley is joining Sen. Dianne Feinstein in asking the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Justice for an update on their scientific and medical evaluation of cannabidiol. The agencies have agreed to conduct the review, which will determine whether there is a scientific basis to change the legal schedule of cannabidiol separate from marijuana.

“Given that many individuals suffer from serious medical conditions that may be alleviated by cannabidiol, it is critical that this evaluation be completed expeditiously,” Grassley and Feinstein wrote to U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell.

Changing the legal schedule of cannabidiol to make it separate from marijuana is one of very issues that opponents in the Legislature – mostly Republicans, as is Grassley – keep referencing.

Grassley and Feinstein, a California Democrat, are well-positioned to make such inquiries. He, along with being chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is chairman of the Caucus on International Narcotics Control. Feinstein is co-chair of the caucus and a member of the Judiciary Committee. Already, at their urging, the federal government has eased certain barriers to research.

In June of last year they conducted a hearing to explore the potential medical benefits of cannabidiol and barriers to research. Just days before that hearing, the Department of Health and Human Services announced it was eliminating the Public Health Service review for non-federally funded marijuana studies, which many viewed as a hindrance to cannabidiol research.

Finally in late 2015, the Drug Enforcement Administration agreed at the senators’ request to ease some of the regulatory requirements for those conducting FDA-approved clinical trials on cannabidiol.

Grassley and Feinstein are powerful senators. Hopefully what they learn will help convince those in the Iowa Legislature of the distinct difference between cannabidiol and the marijuana plant, and that those whose suffering could be diminished dramatically should not have to leave the state or feel like criminals to get and use it. They have waited long enough.

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