Chronicle Editorial

 The medicinal marijuana tightrope

     Though any hopes of passing a bill this year are dead, it appears Iowa's lawmakers have overwhelming support to move forward next session with the proposed legalization of medicinal marijuana here in the Hawkeye State.

     The topic has been a hot-button issue during this year's General Assembly. Senator Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, introduced a bill earlier this session that would have legalized marijuana for medical purposes only. Bolkcom's proposal made headlines statewide and even drew the attention of a hesitant Gov. Terry Branstad. The five-term governor was cautious to jump on board, and felt legalizing the drug "just for a few people" was short-sighted and unnecessary. It seems the bill was greeted with similar uncertainty at the Capitol when legislators failed to act on Bolkcom's proposal, instead opting to study the issue in a bipartisan committee and come back with the findings later.

     Legalizing medicinal marijuana was too large of an issue for lawmakers to tackle during an election year, but it might not be as controversial as they think. Recent data released by Quinnipiac University Poll found that Iowans favor legalizing the drug for medical use by an 87 to 17 percent margin. The study, which polled 1,411 registered voters in Iowa, also discovered incredible bipartisan support for the idea. At least 68 percent of every party approved changing Iowa's current laws to allow medicinal marijuana.

      Lawmakers would have seen very little backlash during the November election if they had moved forward with medicinal marijuana legislation this year. However, that doesn't mean they need to put all their eggs in one basket. Law changes like this take considerable amounts of time to develop, and implementing safeguards against fraudulent use is of the utmost importance. The Legislature's slow pace is a wise decision as we progress on a topic that's gained momentum across the country during the past decade.

     Twenty states and Washington D.C. have established programs that monitor the use of legalized medicinal marijuana. Proponents laude the drug's ability to soothe chronic pain for patients afflicted by various long-term illnesses ranging from cancer to arthritis. It's received the backing of many doctors and others in the medical industry, and it seems like it will only become more and more common in the immediate future. If nearly half of the 50 states can implement functioning medicinal marijuana programs, why can't Iowa do the same?

     By no means does Iowa need to jump the gun and join the ranks of Colorado or Washington by allowing the all-out use of recreational marijuana. Such a change is as unreasonable as it is improbable. However, our lawmakers are taking the right path by biding their time and gathering all possible sources of information before changing current policy. This is an issue that has come up before and it will undoubtedly resurface again. As made evident by the Quinnipiac poll, Iowan's aren't nearly as opposed to medicinal marijuana like they have been in the past. Implementing a system to monitor its medical use like other prescription drugs is well within our legislators' capability if the timing is right and the proper safeguards are in place. If marijuana can truly help those afflicted by chronic illness, it's probably time to allow them the right to obtain that medicine and at least ease some of their unimaginable pain.

 

Madness, indeed

     By now, your March Madness bracket is probably shot to pieces just like everyone else’s in America. This year’s NCAA Tournament has been nothing short of amazing, with enough upsets to keep even the most casual of sports fan glued to their TV for hours on end.

     Our state has definitely enjoyed some strong representation this season. Both the men’s and women’s teams from Iowa and Iowa State earned bids to their respective tournaments this year, and it’s given nationwide viewers the opportunity to catch some of the great basketball we’ve enjoyed here during the 2013-14 season. The ISU men captured a thrilling victory over perennial power North Carolina to catapult themselves into the Sweet 16 on Sunday, and the Hawkeye ladies picked up an opening round victory in their tournament that same day. Unfortunately, the Iowa men and Cyclone women didn’t fair so favorably in their first tournament games and bowed out early.

     It always seems like we’re left wanting more, but it’s been a great season for fans of both allegiances this year. Honestly, it’s just nice to see our state’s programs excelling at the national level together like this. Here’s to hoping those Cyclones keep rolling and those Hawks keep flying this year and in the years to come. Winning is always fun, and it will only strengthen the already strong rivalry between our state’s two biggest schools when next season rolls around.