Over the weekend, Iowa lawmakers passed legislation to expand the state’s limited medical cannabis program right before lawmakers adjourned for the year.
The legislation will now go to Governor Terry Branstad for approval and it allows for the cultivation and sale of cannabis oil to patients that meet the state’s criteria.
Current Law Does Not Do Enough
Current Iowa law (enacted in 2014) allows for the possession of cannabis oil for the treatment of epilepsy. The current law, however, makes it illegal to manufacture or distribute oil in the state and therefore makes it impossible and illegal for Iowans to access the medicine.
The current cannabis law is set to expire in July and advocates have been working to change it so cannabis can be grown within the state and be prescribed to a wider range of medical conditions.
Breaking Down the New Legislation
The legislation would leave the Department of Public Health responsible for the approval of up to two manufacturers and up to five distributors. The legislation will only allow these companies to produce and sell cannabis oil that has less than 3% THC content.
The bill also expands access to patients suffering from Parkinson’s disease, cancer, multiple sclerosis, seizures, AIDS and HIV, Crohn’s disease and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, severe pain, as well as most terminal illnesses that have a life expectancy of less than one year.
The legislation would establish a Medical Cannabidiol Advisory Board within the Department of Public Health. The Board would recommend adding or removing certain medical conditions from the expanded list to the Iowa Board of Medicine. The Board also can recommend increase the 3% cap on THC content.
Legislation Still Does Not Do Enough
The legislation had bipartisan support in the House and passed by a voted of 83 to 11. The Senate approved the legislation on a 33 to 7 vote. The legislation approved was much less broad that was filed in the Senate earlier that week.
The previously submitted legislation did not cap the THC levels, would make it available to patients with about 20 different medical conditions, and would have legally reclassified it under state law. House Republicans said the language in the legislation was too broad. Despite their frustrations, the Senate agreed to advance the House’s version of the bill.
Democratic Senator Joe Bolkcom was not pleased with the House’s legislation and thinks it may create a sense of false hope for those in need. He said that for most ailments covered by the bill, the medication has no more benefit than a baby aspirin.
Republican Senator Charles Schneider agreed with Bolkom and said the Senate’s legislation was significantly better than what was approved by the House. Schneider, however, was satisfied with the outcome as it would expand the availability of cannabis oil and no longer force people to purchase it from out of state.
The Cannabis Train Has Left the Station
The legal cannabis train left the station years ago and we continue to see an increase the number of states looking to take advantage of this new cash crop. Although the United States cannabis industry has not received any support from the Trump administration, legal cannabis initiatives continue to advance in states across the country.
Currently, 29 states have legalized medical cannabis and eight states and the District of Columbia have legalized recreational cannabis. The industry has become too big to fail and it is time for Congress to act and create a system for the legal cannabis industry.
Authored by: Michael Berger
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