Pharmacy Board to Pot Activist: It’s up to the Legislature Now

September 30th, 2010 · 7 Comments

Update: Carl Olsen, in a comment below, clarifies that he will not petition the Board of Pharmacy to place marijuana in any particular schedule. He writes, “I just know it does not meet the statutory criteria for either Schedule I or Schedule II. If the board puts it into Schedule III, I’ll evaluate that to see if I have any problems with it. I don’t deal with what ifs and I am not going to ask them to put marijuana in Schedule III.”

As expected, on Tuesday the Iowa Board of Pharmacy rejected Des Moines activist Carl Olsen’s petition asking it to establish rules that could open the door for medical marijuana in Iowa. The board has the ability to do so under Iowa law, but it wrote that Olsen’s petition was “incomplete and overbroad.” Board Executive Director Lloyd Jessen later reiterated to the Progressive that before any rules could be implemented the Legislature would have to take the lead. “We are done with this issue now until the Legislature and the governor do something,” he said.

In its decision, the board wrote that Olsen’s petition lacked “provisions for safe delivery of medical marijuana” and “measures to assure marijuana use is limited to medical treatment,” and that it included “subject matter that the Board is not authorized by statute to address,” such as criminal penalties for misuse. Moreover, Jessen told the Progressive, the language in the Iowa Code that would grant marijuana medical status “pursuant to rules of the board” “serves no purpose” because it is nothing more than a remnant of Iowa’s short-lived look at an investigational program started by the federal government that was phased out decades ago. “Carl Olsen thinks it’s like everything we need to create a program today, but it’s not,” Jessen said. “For us to have a compassionate use program,” he said, “we need to have a new law that addresses it.”

Olsen, of course, begs to differ. “He’s trying to say, well, because the other states do it this way we don’t have to obey the law here in Iowa,” Olsen said of Jessen. “Bullshit. He’s really clever, he knows all the right excuses to make, but it doesn’t cut mustard. I’m sorry. He’s just flat out wrong. That’s how he would like you to see the thing because it lets him off the hook and lets the Board of Pharmacy off the hook.”

Before Tuesday’s meeting, Olsen said he planned to follow up a board rejection with a new petition demanding that the board recommend marijuana be moved not to Schedule II, with drugs including cocaine and meth, but instead to the less severe Schedule III a less restrictive classification [Editor's note: see update above]. Now, he said, he plans to wait to see if the Legislature acts in January before doing that. In the meantime, he said, “I’m going to appeal the stupid ruling. It doesn’t answer all the questions I still have.” Olsen said he will still sue the state next year if no further actions are taken then.

House Majority Leader and Des Moines Democrat Kevin McCarthy, who committed to an interim study commission on marijuana after the Board of Pharmacy recommended it for medical use in February then quickly backtracked, continued to ignore repeated Progressive requests for comment. However, he spoke with Des Moines Register reporter Tony Leys after Tuesday’s meeting. “I don’t think either the majority or the minority party, whichever that may be, will spend a lot of time on the issue of medical marijuana,” he told Leys.

The reason for McCarthy’s reversal, which we reported in our September issue, was ostensibly that he had not been aware of the language in Iowa law granting the board rule-making powers. Said a sympathetic Olsen: “McCarthy keeps telling [the board] that, because he’s a lawyer and he can read the Iowa Code just like I can, and he sees the same thing I can.” But Jessen won’t be convinced. Legislators, he said, “simply have to” start the process, and “there’s no way they can get away from it.”

Jessen told the Progressive that legislators “have never come and talked to us directly. They communicate through the news.” This probably explains why McCarthy was initially unaware about the law. Had he spoken with the board (or simply given the Iowa Code a good look) before telling the media there would be an interim commission on medical marijuana, he probably would have known about it. Now that he does know, he continues to punt to the unwilling pharmacy board. “The fact of the matter is,” he told Leys, “what the pharmacy board asked for, they already have.” The Progressive can only assume, then, that McCarthy never took the issue of medical marijuana very seriously to begin with (although we still invite him to contact us to set the record straight).

Regardless, unless Carl Olsen’s legal challenges force the state’s hand, there will be no legally available medical marijuana anytime soon in Iowa. Said Jessen, “It’s not popular at all.” McCarthy has said that his constituents aren’t particularly interested in the issue. But, Jessen said, “the people of the state should really decide because the state belongs to the people, so if the people want it they need to tell their legislator and tell their governor that they want it.”

Related articles
The Search for a Medical Marijuana Rule-Maker
Medical Marijuana’s Uncertain Path Forward
The Cannabis Crusade: Could Iowa Become the 14th State to Legalize Medical Marijuana?

Tags: Gavin Aronsen · Medical Marijuana · News

7 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Carl Olsen // Sep 30, 2010 at 12:34 pm

    I never asked the board to put marijuana in any schedule. I asked them to remove it from Schedule I. Asking them to remove it from Schedule II does not mean it just automatically goes into Schedule III. It should go into the appropriate schedule, or none at all. I’m not going to decide what schedule it goes in because that’s the Iowa Board of Pharmacy’s job. I just know it does not meet the statutory criteria for either Schedule I or Schedule II. If the board puts it into Schedule III, I’ll evaluate that to see if I have any problems with it. I don’t deal with what ifs and I am not going to ask them to put marijuana in Schedule III. You must have misunderstood what I was telling you, a common ailment in Iowa these days.

  • 2 garonsen // Sep 30, 2010 at 12:44 pm

    I was referring to this, which you told me for my previous article: “If the board does reject Olsen’s petition, Olsen said he plans to file another that requests marijuana be moved to a less restrictive schedule with the hope that the eventual rule-makers consider it a less dangerous substance.”

    You mentioned Schedule III, and I asked about a Schedule III petition yesterday, which is what I referred to in this article. But I’ll be happy to issue a clarification.

    Where I mentioned Schedule II, I was referring to the recommendation the board already made. I’ve reported in previous articles that you challenged the Schedule I classification.

  • 3 jason // Sep 30, 2010 at 12:56 pm

    This is particularly upsetting, some of the terminology used here really sets a bad tone, the fact they state that just because the issue isn’t popular its going to be backburnered, and the statement that basically hints to the fact that the peole have no choice really make this sound like its something that is out of our control, well it isn’t, this IS the peoples state and the people need to be givin the choice, when 20+ percent of the states in the country are implementing mmj laws and and our pharmacy board and legislature are pretending the matter is unpopular or unimportant then its time for a vote, i understand that its not that easy, but why isn’t it??? For the people by the people right??? Put some numbers togather, figure an agreeable tax, show the profit to the state, maybe that will grease some gears, to me its turned to for the money by the money so play their game i supose.

  • 4 Carl Olsen // Sep 30, 2010 at 1:13 pm

    I said THC, the FDA-approved and pure psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, is in Schedule III and nothing else in the marijuana plant has any abuse potential or dependence liability. I never said anything about marijuana belonging in that classification, nor did I say THC belongs in that classification. All I said was that it is ridiculous to put marijuana in a more restrictive classification than pure THC. I don’t deal with what ifs. Marijuana is not in Schedule III. If they put it there, I’ll probably challenge it. I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.

  • 5 Carl Olsen // Sep 30, 2010 at 7:42 pm

    Excellent coverage. The way this law was written is a violation of separation of powers. It’s an unconstitutional delegation of legislative power to an administrative agency. I’m suspicious it was written that way specifically to cause the problem its causing now. The Iowa Legislature says the Board of Pharmacy can make medical use of marijuana legal by administrative rule. The Iowa Board of Pharmacy says only the Iowa Legislature can make it legal for medical use. We can now see why the law was written this way. I’ll be filing a petition for judicial review shortly.

  • 6 zwooff // Oct 1, 2010 at 4:20 pm

    One reason ignored here as to why the issue isn’t viewed as popular is the stigma of its illegal status. I can vividly recall responses from Charles Grassley stating that he would be turning my and others letters(RE:Hemp, MMJ, Religious,Recreational usages) over to the DEA for further investigation. Contacting legislators insn’t a very inviting thing to do given the stigma of cannabis illegal status-eh?

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