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Their lobbying efforts have even extended back to lawmakers' home districts. Parents facing similar medical situations across the state have been attending legislative forums, making the case not only to their representatives and senators but also their neighbors.
Parents leading charge for medical marijuana
A year ago, medical marijuana advocates were all but laughed out of a House committee hearing and as recently as February sponsors were calling this year's bill dead on arrival. Now, the Legislature's fiercest critic of medicinal cannabis is helping to write the legalization bill that bipartisan majorities in the House and Senate are expected to support.
"The moms that have come up with their sick kids have been quite powerful," Bolkcom said. "I don't think anybody really expected the power of those stories to change this debate, but it certainly has."
And indeed, lawmakers have begun changing their minds.
State Sen. Joe Bolkcom, an Iowa City Democrat who has advocated for years to legalize medical marijuana, Football Shoes Tiempo
West Des Moines Mayor Steve Gaer talks after a meeting with Gov. Terry Branstad April 1. With him are April Stumpf of Riverside, whose daughter experiences seizures, and Maria La France of Des Moines.(Photo: William Petroski/Register file photo)
Baudler's evolving opinion, cautious and qualified though it is, is indicative of a startling shift among Iowa political leaders of all stripes.
One big driver of the changing perception is the very specific form of marijuana under consideration. Lawmakers are looking to legalize possession of cannabidiol, a marijuana derived oil that provides relief to epilepsy patients but contains little THC and is ingested by mouth or in pill form.
The catalyst for the shift has been a group of moms. Maria La France and Sally Gaer, both mothers of children with a rare and debilitating form of epilepsy known as Dravet syndrome, became the public face of Iowa's medical marijuana movement this year, and their stories and persistence have completely changed the terms of the debate.
all 150 lawmakers shortly before the session began.
Even Gov. Terry Branstad who just weeks ago worried aloud that prescription marijuana could fall into Nike Football Boots Black
A year ago, state Rep. Clel Baudler told a packed legislative hearing that legalizing medical marijuana would be one of the stupidest things the Iowa Legislature has ever done. "There is no reason to legalize medical marijuana," the Greenfield Republican declared at the January 2013 hearing.
Now, the House Public Safety Committee chairman and former state trooper is predicting a bill legalizing cannabis oil for epilepsy treatment may yet pass the Legislature this year and he's even helping to write it. He sat in the nearly vacant House chambers last Thursday afternoon reviewing proposed language line by line and marking up final changes before the bill is officially enrolled.
"If I Soccer Shoes Vs Baseball Cleats had to bet today, I'd bet something will come out of this legislative session that is very, very limited to epilepsy," he said, adding that he remains concerned even a narrow bill could lead to further liberalization of Iowa's marijuana laws.
Since the session convened, Bolkcom has organized a series of informational hearings in which parents and others have shared their stories and described how medical marijuana could help. La France and Gaer, meanwhile, have haunted the Capitol's second floor rotunda, calling lawmakers out of the chambers one by one to plead their case. Since February, they estimate they've spent two to three days a week at the Statehouse.
Iowa lawmakers are poised in the waning days of the 2014 legislation to legalize or at least decriminalize a form of marijuana that relieves symptoms for severely epileptic children. If they actually pull it off, it'll mark one of the most surprising turnabouts in recent Iowa legislative history.
the hands of kids and recreational users told Iowa Public Radio this month that there were approaches he could sign his name to.
"Once you start educating the Iowans in their districts and it makes sense to them and they're supportive, that gives the legislators the power to go ahead and support it too," Gaer said.
La France called 25 legislators personally last fall, and sent letters describing the science supporting medical cannabis for children with epilepsy to Nike Football Mercurial
"The short answer is: Democracy works," said John Cacciatore, a lobbyist and former staffer who's been watching action in the Iowa Legislature for more than 20 years. "The folks who care about this issue have petitioned their government in a really effective way, and they've persuaded the leading policymakers involved in it."
Gaer, La France and others were motivated initially by a CNN broadcast last summer highlighting the potential for cannabis oil to provide relief from seizures caused by epilepsy. They formed a private Facebook group of interested parents, and then began meeting with Bolkcom and other advocates.
"We're just constantly up there in their faces," said La France, a small business owner from Des Moines.
House Majority Leader Linda Upmeyer, a Republican and a nurse practitioner, has acknowledged the potential merits of legal marijuana for medicinal purposes. So has Democratic Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal.
said Gaer, La France and others have been "tenacious."
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