Government

Patient advocates seek cannabis expansion in Iowa

More conditions, higher drug potency urged

Lucas Nelson addresses a Statehouse news conference Tuesday urging Iowa legislators to expand the state’s medical cannabis law. Nelson and other advocates urged lawmakers to increase the conditions that marijuana-derived cannabidiol can cover and to increase the potentecy of the drug beyond the 3 percent cap on THC. (Photo by Rod Boshart/Gazette Des Moines Bureau
Lucas Nelson addresses a Statehouse news conference Tuesday urging Iowa legislators to expand the state’s medical cannabis law. Nelson and other advocates urged lawmakers to increase the conditions that marijuana-derived cannabidiol can cover and to increase the potentecy of the drug beyond the 3 percent cap on THC. (Photo by Rod Boshart/Gazette Des Moines Bureau

DES MOINES — Iowans suffering from chronic illnesses made another pitch for legislative relief Tuesday, calling on lawmakers to expand the medical conditions covered by the state’s cannabis law and seeking to lift the potency cap to be able to receive effective doses of legal marijuana-derived cannabidiol.

Patients, parents, a MedPharm Iowa official and other advocates for medical marijuana made a direct appeal at the Statehouse for members of the GOP-led Iowa House to expand the state law so they have more access to affordable cannabis products with the potency they need.

“This program does not provide the treatment that it was promised,” said Lucas Nelson, general manager of outsourcing services for Kemin Industries, parent company of MedPharm Iowa, the business with the only state license to manufacture marijuana for medical use in Iowa. “It’s inhumane. It’s unjust. It’s not showing any compassion.”

Nelson and other advocates at a Statehouse news conference supported provisions of Senate File 2405 that would lift a controversial 3 percent cap on THC, the psychoactive chemical in marijuana, give doctors more discretion to authorize the use of marijuana products to treat pain, and expand the eligible conditions beyond the nine currently covered by Iowa’s limited medical cannabis law.

“Unless this cap is removed, Iowa’s program will continue to provide false hope to the patients it was supposed to serve and it will fail to deliver the relief so many patients were promised,” said Nelson, whose company also holds two dispensary licenses in Sioux City and Windsor Heights.

Cedar Falls resident Tyler Price, a former Waterloo police officer who developed job-related post traumatic stress syndrome, said he would like to see the covered list of conditions expanded to make an effective treatment, which he once opposed.

“We don’t have time to wait until next year,” Price said. “Our veterans protected us. We need our legislators to help protect them now.”

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Michelle Richardson, a Norwalk woman who has been living with multiple sclerosis for eight years, said Iowa’s current law has set up onerous and unworkable barriers for patients that makes the situation unworkable and ineffective compared to 29 other states with comprehensive programs that Iowa should model.

“I’ve been told by some legislators that we should wait until next year. Well, they may have time to wait, suffering Iowans do not. We have been waiting long enough,” Richardson said.

“It’s time to end the suffering. Each day we wait, we suffer,” she said in her message to House leaders who are blocking additional changes this session. “The Legislature can still do the right thing and correct these issues.”

House Speaker Linda Upmeyer, R-Clear Lake, has indicated she believes lawmakers should wait until an advisory board reviews the new state law and makes recommendations later this year. Iowa-grown medical cannabis products will be sold from five state-licensed “dispensaries” starting Dec. 1.

Sen. Bill Dotzler, D-Waterloo, attended the news conference but said the people who needed to hear the message unfortunately were not present.

The Waterloo Democrat said adopting the changes called for in Senate File 2405 are “a no-brainer,” but he added that the chances for the Legislature to adopt them this year are “pretty close to slim or none.”

“Speaker Upmeyer has been pretty adamant about this,” said Dotzler. “The law’s flawed and it definitely needs some work, but until we get a change in leadership I’m not sure if we’re ever going to be able to move it through.”

l Comments: (515) 243-7220; rod.boshart@thegazette.com

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