Biden’s pardon on cannabis offenses continues the discussion of legality


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Cannabis plants contain CBD and THC.

The nationwide discussion on cannabis laws extended Oct. 6 when President Joe Biden pardoned federal convictions to those charged solely with cannabis possession.

As for arrests made for cannabis in Ames, nothing has changed since Biden’s pardon, said Cmdr. Dan Walter of the Ames Police Department.

“Our charges reflect state charges, and state code hasn’t changed,” Walter said. “That isn’t for us to change, so we won’t see any training changes as far as the state code is until the legislature would make a decision to take that on, or if they made a decision to take that on.”

Possession of cannabis is currently a serious misdemeanor in Iowa. For a first-time offense, up to six months of incarceration is met with a $1,000 fine for any amount.

Currently, 19 states have legalized cannabis recreationally, with 37 states and three territories legalizing it medically. A study from Pew Research Center found that only 8% of U.S. adults think cannabis should be completely illegal, with 60% advocating for medical and recreational use to be legalized.

While possession is a law they enforce, it is not their top priority, as most calls they receive from it are quality-of-life issues. The most common is someone calling about their apartment buildings smelling like marijuana because someone living there is smoking.

“It was definitely a step in the right direction,” said Abigail Enos, president of Iowa State’s National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) . “No one deserves to be in prison for cannabis.”

Aside from potential medical benefits, Enos believes marijuana is safer than alcohol. This idea comes from the CDC’s report of 140,000 annual deaths in the U.S. from excessive alcohol use, while all they state on marijuana fatality is that it is unlikely. Enos chose her major, horticulture, hoping to one day legally grow and sell marijuana.

“If we’re okay having alcohol, I think we need to be okay having pot as a recreational thing,” Enos said. “In my opinion, it does a lot less harm than alcohol. It’s a double standard if we choose to not have it.”

During these club meetings, which are open to the public, speakers come in to discuss the topic. One speaker was Beth Wessel-Kroeschell, Ames representative, along with various lawyers and members of the city council.

“It’s been seen to be very helpful in PTSD,” Enos said. “A lot of veterans use it. Unfortunately, the VA (Veterans Affairs) won’t prescribe it because it’s still federally illegal. But, I personally know veterans that smoke for their PTSD, and it makes a huge difference. It lets them sleep; it lets them relax.”

The main components of cannabis are CBD and THC, each producing different effects. The high obtained from cannabis comes from THC, while CBD does not produce this effect.

Carver Nebbe, an MD psychiatrist at Thielen Student Health Center, is unsure of the use of cannabis but understands the possible benefits of CBD.

“I don’t have any problem with students using CBD for the approved conditions, but I’m still relatively agnostic towards it,” Nebbe said. “I am intrigued by some of the potential it has demonstrated.”

The conditions Nebbe believes could benefit from the use are PTSD and autism spectrum conditions. He also notes that the FDA has approved synthetic cannabinoid use in cancer patients, helping with nausea, vomiting and seizure disorders caused by chemotherapy.

While Nebbe addresses some possible benefits, he also notices negative effects in some users. Benefits include creativity and hypnotic sensations, but he believes these are misconceptions. He notices panic attacks, sleep disorders and lower motivation as negative side effects.

Nebbe believes the negatives of marijuana use outweigh the positives, and those who self-medicate with marijuana may be able to find better ways to achieve treatment.

“The movement promoting medical marijuana has been blurred with the recreational use of marijuana, and they are very definitely not the same thing,” Nebbe said.