‘This Bill Could Have Changed My Life,’ Iowan Suffering From Chronic Pain Speaks Out Over Medical Marijuana Veto

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DES MOINES, Iowa — On a sunny Saturday on the south side of Des Moines, Emily Holley plays with her 16-month-old daughter, Elouise. This is one of the good days.

“On a good day it kind of just feels like stiffness and muscle aches and kinda the pain you get when you have the flu. On a bad day I can’t move or get out of bed,” said Holley.

Holley developed a bone infection at ten years old and since then has suffered from chronic pain.

“This November it will be 24 years with chronic pain and then it worsens over time. A year ago, it wasn’t as bad as it is now. I’m sure a year from now it’ll be worse than it is now,” she said.

On a table sits several pill bottles. Some are powerful opioids. These are what she takes to manage the pain, and the side effects.

“I have one that I take as needed everyday and I have a stronger one for what’s called breakthrough pain. Then, I have medications for nerve pain and then I have one for anxiety because chronic pain causes anxiety and depression,” said Holley.

The bill Gov. Kim Reynolds vetoed would have expanded who has access to medical marijuana, allowing people with chronic pain to get a card. Previously, only people with “untreatable pain” had access. For the first time, Holley would have had a chance to try something different.

“This bill could have changed my life. I don’t expect miracles when it comes to my pain, I’ve had it for so long. All I really wanted was more good days, that’s it. I want to be able to get up and be able to go to work without my husband helping me get out of bed. I want to be able to sit on the floor and play with my child every day,” said Holley.

That’s not the case, and it has her worried for the future.

“I’m going to have chronic pain for the rest of my life. We don’t know the long-term effects of all of these medications that I am taking that I will have to take for the rest of my life; and that’s scary,” said Holley.

Reynolds issued the veto over concerns of another part of the bill, a portion which would have raised the allowable THC levels per dose. She is worried that Iowans would be at risk of abusing a product with higher THC. Iowa Public Health Director Gerd Clabaugh supported the governor’s decision.

Holley says without an alternative, Iowans are more at risk of falling victim to the opioid crisis than any medical marijuana product.


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