On June 20, the Marijuana Policy Project hosted a medical-marijuana forum at the Bettendorf Public Library. The event featured a screening of the documentary Waiting to Inhale as well as a discussion with patients who use medical marijuana and proponents of legalizing the drug for medical use. Video of the discussion follows.

Medical Marijuana Forum June 20, 2009; Bettendorf, Iowa from James Getman on Vimeo.

Two patients discussed the benefits of medical marijuana, particularly in situations in which few existing prescription options are effective and/or safe. Jeff Elton, who has Diabetic Neuropathic Gastroparesis (a paralysis of the stomach), said marijuana was the only drug able to control his nausea, vomiting, and weight loss; he was prescribed a drug that could cause permanent tremors. "We are being prescribed ... drugs that are worse than the disease," he said.

A doctor said that marijuana (and the prescribed derivative Marinol, which contains cannabis' psychoactive component) is an effective therapy for some patients.

Carl Olsen spoke about his efforts to decriminalize marijuana at the federal level and in Iowa, and about the drug's legal history. On June 1, the Iowa Board of Pharmacy ruled against medical marijuana, although some people claim the board violated the directive of a court order in its action. The Drug Enforcement Agency last year rejected Olsen's petition to reschedule cannabis under the Controlled Substances Act.

Jimmy Morrison of the Marijuana Policy ProjectBeyond those administrative efforts, legislation is being considered at both the federal and state levels.

In Iowa, Senator Joe Bolkcom this year introduced legislation to provide for medical use of marijuana for people suffering from "cachexia or wasting syndrome," "severe pain, "severe nausea," "seizures," and "severe and persistent muscle spasms." The bill was assigned to a subcommittee and advanced no further. More information can be found here.

In Illinois, a medical-cannabis bill passed the Senate but not the House.

Advocates for medical marijuana are also pushing federal legislation, although based on comments at the June forum, they appear to focusing their efforts at the state level.

Thirteen states have approved medical marijuana. For information on state-level programs and legislation, visit NORML's medical-marijuana page.

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