In Iowa, medical marijuana patients want access to stronger medicine. Petitioning lawmakers to change the state’s restrictive medical marijuana regulations, patients, led by CBD company MedPharm, appeared at the Statehouse in Des Moines. Here’s a look at the legislation Iowans are looking to change, and the long road to reform ahead.
Iowa’s Restrictive Medical Marijuana Program
At the law stands, medical marijuana patients have very limited access to THC. In 2014, the state passed the Medical Cannabidiol Act, which is exactly what it sounds like: No matter your condition, you can only access marijuana high in CBD and very low in THC (3 percent maximum).
This prevents medical marijuana patients from experiencing the ‘high’ feeling that comes along with psychoactive THC. It also restricts cannabis’ medical potency. Additionally, THC is an effective treatment for pain, cancer and many debilitating conditions. Many also believe that cannabis with both cannabinoids, CBD and THC, is more potent due to the entourage effect.
Lawmakers Have Been Working To Change The Law
As of last week, Iowan legislators are working on passing an extension to existing medical marijuana legislation. This bill would abolish the sales tax on medical marijuana, count marijuana as a treatment for additional conditions and eliminate the cap on THC.
The bill has passed a Senate committee vote, and many are hopeful that lawmakers will vote it in before the current legislative session ends. This gives legislators about a week.
Iowa’s first cannabis manufacturer, MedPharm, contends that these changes would be hugely significant. Not only would they allow the state’s medical marijuana market to grow, but it would give additional patients access to more effective medicine.
Iowans and MedPharm Came Out To Support This Legislation
The expansion of Iowa’s medical marijuana legislation received vast public support. On Tuesday, MedPharm organized a press conference at the capital. Lucas Nelson, general manager of outsourcing services for Kemin Industries, the ingredient manufacturing company that runs MedPharm, explained to us the importance of supporting this new legislation a week before the session ends.
“Not enough of our legislators apparently seem to care about the lack of effective treatment they’re going to provide patients under this program,” Nelson said. “We thought it was important to make sure those voices were heard.”
Legislators listened to current medical marijuana patients as well as potential patients. Nelson describes the speakers:
“We had a former police officer who now suffers from PTSD who wouldn’t even qualify under our program right now. We had an MS patient who understands what this cap is going to do not only for her but for many of her fellow MS patients…we had a couple folks, one with Crohn’s, the other with ulcerative colitis.”
Patients with these conditions and more would benefit from access to THC and basic access to medical marijuana.
The Future of Medical Marijuana In Iowa
Though the Senate consistently supports comprehensive cannabis legislation, such measures face staunch opposition in the House. Last fall, the Senate passed with Nelson viewed as “a very strong bill that would have put in line with a lot of other states across the country.”
The House, however, gutted the bill and imposed the limitations that MedPharm and patients are fighting today. They’ve also threatened to do the same to the new initiative.
Despite this, medical marijuana is moving forward in Iowa. This fall, the state will open five dispensaries, two of which MedPharm will operate. Have a Heart and the Iowa Cannabis Company own the other three.
Nelson is hopeful that if they keep pushing for reform, and hearing from patients, legislators will make big changes. “What they’re failing to grasp is that the urgency is right now,” Nelson said. “Those patients can’t wait. Their diseases don’t wait on them. So what we were trying to showcase was that the legislature should not wait either.”