Will Iowa Now Become the Next Battleground for Political Pot?

Marguerite Arnold, Main Street

In a stunning move that started on the first working day of the new year, the Iowa Board of Pharmacy has now recommended that cannabidiol (or CBD) be classified as a Schedule II substance (with known medical efficacy). The Board apparently came close to rescheduling the entire plant as a Schedule II but held back at the last minute.

While the medical impact of the marijuana plant has been repeatedly proved, particularly over the last five to ten years in research studies globally, the U.S. federal government still refuses to reclassify the drug as anything other than a Schedule I - or in other words a drug with no known medical efficacy.

In fact, just as the Iowa state regulators were making their own decision to move away from the Schedule I classification of at least low THC substances, in California, attorneys representing the U.S. Justice Department argued exactly the opposite about THC.

That said, this move is highly significant for a number of reasons, starting with its political impact. According to Mike Liszewski, government affairs director for the patients' advocacy organization Americans for Safe Access, "The attempt by the Iowa Board of Pharmacy to reschedule marijuana is significant not only for its potential in improving the lives of patients, but also because it will force the 2016 presidential candidates to take a position on marijuana's current federal Schedule I status."

The reason it will force all presidential candidates to take an early position on medical marijuana, at minimum, if not the medical efficacy of CBD, is because of the influence of the early Iowa caucuses on presidential candidates and party platforms. Iowa has long been known for this very reason, as the "Ethanol State," where corn politics are front and center in presidential selection.

This move will be even more significant as Liszewski said, "given that neither party has taken up the issue, coupled with medical marijuana's consistent 70-85% support in national polls." As a result, according to Liszewski, cannabis reform "is an issue that candidates from either party could make tremendous gains by becoming the lead champion on rescheduling."

That said, Liszewski also believes that this development is only as significant as the major parties allow it to be.

"Of course, the Republican Congress or Democratic Administration could take the issue off the table as a win for their party by rescheduling either through new legislation or existing statutory authority," he said. "If a presidential candidate wants to score easy points for their national viability, they could do so by supporting the Iowa Board of Pharmacy's plan and decisively stating that they will permanently end the federal crackdown on state medical marijuana programs."