Friday, February 01, 2013

Medical Marijuana Killed For Now

It's a damn shame that the medical marijuana bill was not only killed, but treated as a joke, in the Iowa House this week.

I prefer full legalization, but medical would have been a nice first step in the way civil unions were a step toward marriage equality a decade ago.

But it's a lesson that the rest of the state is not Johnson County. And Republican House control put the worst possible legislator in charge of the relevant subcommittee. Semi-coherent redneck Clel Baudler once sought a California medical marijuana prescription for "hemmorhoids" just  to mock the idea. He called the bill "asinine" and "stupid" despite some eloquent testimony and the unanimous support of the State Board of Pharmacy. Game over just three weeks into the session.

It's a setback not just for legalization, but for the justice center in Johnson County, where opponents want to see real changes in law and law enforcement. (So do a lot of us supporters.)

There's a perception - a mis-perception - that the current jail is full of weed smokers. That mis-perception is fueled by the police blotter, as the Iowa City Police Department and especially Campus Security have a Reefer Madness Zero Tolerance mindset. Back in my day, if the RA caught you with a doobie, the worst you would get was a "formal" - a simple written warning. The cool RAs would tell you to stuff a towel under the door. The REALLY cool RAs would take a hit and say "you know, I'm supposed to tell you not to do this."

Now they literally make a federal case of it - university grants are tied to zero tolerance.

So the fault lies with the city and the legislature and the feds - everywhere except the people who have to clean up the aftermath: the sheriff, the county attorney and the courts. They deal with it positively and, unfortunately, too quietly. Simple possession cases are released from custody promptly. Prosecutors are reluctant to pursue cases - in part because, as one once told me privately, they know there are a lot of prospective jurors like me who would never vote to convict for a law they don't support.

Instead, Lonny Pulkrabek and Janet Lyness, who are pretty darn progressive-minded for a cop and a prosecutor, have established an excellent jail alternatives program. Not quite a towel to stuff under the door, but if  ICPD and Campus Security are adamant about drug busts, it's a distinct improvement.

Problem is, the alternatives program is maxed out because of lack of space- and the only way to solve that is to expand the justice center. But the very people who would benefit the most and would support the changes the most are the ones who are opposing the justice center... because we aren't doing enough.

The circular illogic continues: some of the strongest drug reform advocates and justice center opponents were also the harshest pre-election critics of defeated Democratic House candidate Dick Schwab. Bobby Kaufmann = Republican House Control = Clel Baudler chairing a subcommittee instead of Deborah Berry, who represents the second most Democratic seat in the state in inner city Waterloo.

We need to be hearing more from the local officials about their support for changes in law and policy. Pulkrabek and Lyness have been too modest for their own good. The arrest makes the blotter, the quick release and diversion don't.

The legislators need to speak up as well - Joe Bolkcom is the Senate sponsor of the medical marijuana bill, so our local people get it. Unfortunately, we're still up against a lot of Clel Baudlers in Des Moines.

“When the law enforcement community comes to me en masse wanting something done like this, I’ll pull out my sword and I’ll charge forward,” Baudler said. “Until then, the bill’s dead.” OK, cops. Speak up.

UPDATE: One local official promptly responded to this: Board of Supervisors chair Janelle Rettig.
I 100% support medical marijuana legislation. How it is that some drugs are OK to treat illness and others are treated as jokes is beyond me. I think medical trials would find many uses for marijuana. I 100% support hemp and have always thought Iowa would benefit from this crop. The war on drugs has not worked very well and we need grown ups to address the issues.
Will be glad to add any other electeds to the honor roll, below:

Supervisor Rod Sullivan: "Interestingly, I actually prefer legalizing it for recreational (rather than medicinal) use. My wife is very knowledgeable on the topic of prescription drugs, and she says smoking is a very bad way to deliver medicine. She says it can/should be delivered other ways to ensure dosage, quality, etc. I tend to trust her expertise here. 
That said, I don't see why it should be illegal in the first place. You'd need to observe the existing ban on smoking in the workplace, and you'd need some way to test for people who are too affected to drive. If you can work that out, then I say legalize it and tax it.


Lessons in Moral Courage said...

Speaking of health and health care. Do you know why we're seeing so little said about Brandstad opting out of the Affordable Healthcare Act?

I understand Jack Hatch introduced a bill to counter this last Tuesday but I can't find a shred of active support behind this. What's up?

RevGreen13 said...

thanks John

puttputtputttt said...

At the first January Iowa Caucuses in 1972 I was elected from my U of I dorm to be a delegate to the Johnson County Democratic convention. After a vigorous and loud debate, a resolution favoring the legalization of heroin was passed. I have never been to another county convention where I live now that holds a candle to that one!

RevGreen13 said...

Current and former law enforcement officers who also serve on the South Dakota Legislature proposed the measure. - South Dakota News - SD Lawmakers Debate Medical Marijuana “To do it for medical purposes, I think, that's a noble goal,” said State Rep. Marc Feinstein.

But Feinstein also said it may reduce stress for those who already use it, knowing what could potentially happen.

"Sometimes the right thing for their health may involve a criminal act, but if we can make it a legitimate defermative offense, I think it’s a positive step forward," said Feinstein.

But both agree, this measure could help take a closer look at South Dakota’s criminal justice system.

"Really it’s a positive step in reducing what happens in our criminal justice system,” said Feinstein.

“We do need to look at treatment issues and taking care of people, and incarceration is not the answer,” said Hajek.