Iowa is now home to five medical marijuana dispensaries. They were approved under a law passed last March, permitting the sale of specific cannabis-derived products to those suffering from qualifying conditions including untreatable pain, side effects of cancer, seizures, ALS, and others.
CBD for the People
According to the Omaha World-Herald, approximately 500 Iowa residents have received their medical marijuana cards and can now buy three types of medical cannabidiol (CBD): gel capsules, tinctures, and creams. Charley Wells, an employee of Have A Heart Compassion Care—a former barbecue-restaurant-turned-dispensary—in Council Bluffs near the Iowa-Nebraska border, told the publication he expects traffic to increase as Iowans familiarize themselves with medical cannabis.
“More and more, the stigma of the product is getting lifted and people are getting excited,” he said.
Sarah Reisetter, a public health official in Iowa, said the number of applications increased as the Dec. 1 opening date approached. A majority of patients “cited untreatable pain as the reason they were seeking the compounds.” According to the Omaha World-Herald, “physicians don’t prescribe or recommend the products,” but rather they certify a patient’s eligibility depending on their medical conditions.
More than 300 physicians have certified patients, and one of the state’s largest healthcare providers told the newspaper that it was “leaving the decision whether to certify patients to physicians.”
However, those same officials also said, “their health system’s policies are to follow federal law when it comes to the practice of medicine.”
These contradictory statements are unsurprising, given the infancy of Iowa’s medical cannabis program.
The Grass is Greener…in Iowa?
Have A Heart is one of two dispensaries opening its doors in a border town. Iowa is surrounded by several states that do not have medical marijuana programs in place, including neighboring Nebraska, whose attorney general has been vocal about his opposition to legalization of any kind.
Although Nebraska does allow the use of medical cannabis in one drug, the new Iowan dispensaries are a blatant reminder of the lack of rights Nebraskans have compared to their neighbors to the west; a grass-is-greener relationship that emerged when the Hawkeye State was granted the right to legally gamble a decade ago. Except, the laws in both Nebraska and Iowa prohibit travelers from crossing the border with weed. So while Nebraskans can hop the river to gamble, they cannot get cannabis products from their 420-friendly neighbor.
Is legalization on the horizon for Nebraska? As of now, it doesn’t seem likely. In a study at a local university in Nebraska, a resolution to get legalization on the ballot in 2018 did not move forward in the state’s legislature, reports the Omaha World-Herald.