The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Opinion

April 30, 2014

After 35 years, a bit of progress on medical marijuana

Back in 1979, then state representatives Dale Hibbs, R-Iowa City, and Bob Arnould, D-Davenport, helped shepherd a bill through the Iowa House of Representatives that would have allowed marijuana to be used for medicinal purposes in the state. Providing the legislation with a type of odd-couple, bi-partisan support, Hibbs and Arnould managed to get the bill out of committee and onto the House floor for a full debate.

After a few hours of grueling political circus, however, they decided to withdraw the bill because it was abundantly clear that there wasn’t the support necessary to pass the measure in that legislative session — nor in any session in the near future.

“We took a hell of a beating,” Hibbs told the Press-Citizen last Tuesday afternoon — two days before the Iowa Senate passed legislation that would decriminalize oil derived from marijuana for the treatment of severe epilepsy.

“At that point the issue brought along a lot of post-1960s politics with it,” Arnould said Tuesday morning. “The debate was all wrapped up in the past and wasn’t focused on the medical benefits. It was a non-productive, so we pulled (the bill) from the floor.”

Later in that 1979 session, the pair did manage to have language added to the appropriations bill that called on the state Board of Pharmacy to organize a group of physicians “to advise the board on the type of program to be established, the qualifications of those who will be eligible to dispense the marijuana.” But the legislation also required the program to comply with all federal regulations, which at that time basically left it dead in the water.

“We never really expected much to come of it,” said Hibbs, now a retired school teacher who lives in Iowa City. “It was sort of a ‘Hail Mary’ effort.”

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