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Iowa On Verge Of Legalizing Marijuana Oil To Treat Severe Childhood Epilepsy

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By Kay Henderson

DES MOINES, Iowa, May 1 (Reuters) - Iowa lawmakers on Thursday approved a bill that would legalize possession of a liquid, non-intoxicating form of marijuana as a treatment for severe epilepsy, sending it to Governor Terry Branstad.

Iowa would join five other states with similar measures including Wisconsin and Mississippi if the Republican governor signs the bill into law, the Washington-based pro-marijuana group NORML said.

The bill is "largely symbolic" because it provides no legal, in-state source for Iowa residents to obtain the substance known as cannabidiol, NORML deputy director Paul Armentano said.

Branstad has said he would consider signing the bill approved with bipartisan support by state representatives early Thursday. The Senate, which had passed a previous version, approved the House changes.

A group of parents who have epileptic children lobbied Iowa lawmakers on the issue and about 100 patients with intractable epilepsy will be able to get a neurologist's recommendation for cannabidiol if the bill becomes law, lawmakers said.

"What we're offering today is hope for these families," said state Representative Bob Kressig, a Democrat.

Armentano said residents of Iowa would have to obtain the oil from a state where marijuana is legal, and break federal law to carry it across state lines.

"The law unfortunately will fail to provide either adequate access or adequate relief to the very patient population it is intended to serve," Armentano said.

NORML does not count states that only allow possession of the cannabis oil as among the 21 states plus the District of Columbia that have legalized medical marijuana. (Reporting by Kay Henderson; Editing by Mary Wisniewski and James Dalgleish)

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