Medical marijuana could be more potent in Iowa under measure House panel approved
Wednesday, March 6, 2019
Posted by: Lexi Dills
House Republicans are moving forward with a plan to expand Iowa's medical marijuana program, in part by partially lifting a cap on the use of the chemical that makes recreational pot users high.
A three-person panel on Wednesday approved a bill that would remove a percentage cap on the amount of THC that can be in medical cannabis, the oil derived from the cannabis plant. Iowa law prohibits smoking medical marijuana.
The issue over the THC cap — which is currently set at 3 percent — has been the ire of businesses in the state that manufacture and sell medical marijuana. Patients also say the limitation makes their medication less effective.
If the measure becomes law, dispensaries would be permitted to give out 20 grams of THC to a patient or a patient’s caregiver in a 90-day period.
Rep. Jarad Klein, R-Keota, said his legislation is in response to feedback from the medical community and patients.
"There are people in this state that need relief, and that's what we're trying to do here," he said.
Iowa lawmakers have been gradually expanding the state's medical marijuana program for years. In 2014, lawmakers approved a law to let Iowans use cannabidiol to treat chronic epilepsy through registration cards. In 2017, lawmakers created a manufacturing system in the state, a related advisory board and expanded the number of medical conditions eligible to obtain cannabis products.
Representatives for the manufacturers indicated at Wednesday's meeting that they hope to amend the bill to further lift the cap.
"We certainly appreciate the 3 percent cap coming off," said Dane Schumann, a lobbyist for MedPharm Iowa, one of the state's manufacturers.
The legislation also adds physician assistants and advanced registered nurse practitioners to the list of health care professionals who can certify a person to receive a medical cannabidiol registration card. Klein said that's aimed at addressing patients in more rural parts of the state.
The bill would replace “untreatable pain” with “severe and chronic pain” on the list of debilitating medical conditions for obtaining medical marijuana products. It would also remove a ban on certain felons from applying for a medical marijuana registration cards.
The bill is separate from an effort in the Republican-majority Iowa Senate. That measure would let health care providers approve the use of marijuana products for any condition for which they determined it could be “medically beneficial.”
Klein's bill, in its current form, has support from House Speaker Linda Upmeyer. The Clear Lake Republican is a key vote on the issue because she helps decide which legislation will get a vote in the Republican-controlled chamber.
Klein's bill is expected to advance out of the House Public Safety Committee later this week. That means the bill is set to survive the so-called "funnel" deadline for legislation to advance this session.
Des Moines Registar, online, March 6th, 2019.