Public Safety

Four Iowa bids submitted for medical marijuana manufacturing licenses, but it's unclear if Cedar Rapids is on the list

Lucas Nelson, general manager of outsourcing services for Kemin Industries, talks in the entrance to MedPharm Iowa in Des Moines on Wednesday, March 21, 2018. The company recently received the state’s only license to grow and process medical cannabidiol. MedPharm will have products ready to sell by December 1, 2018. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
Lucas Nelson, general manager of outsourcing services for Kemin Industries, talks in the entrance to MedPharm Iowa in Des Moines on Wednesday, March 21, 2018. The company recently received the state’s only license to grow and process medical cannabidiol. MedPharm will have products ready to sell by December 1, 2018. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

Four companies, including one from Iowa, are vying for one remaining license to manufacture medical marijuana in the state.

The Iowa Department of Public Health received four applications by Thursday’s 4 p.m. deadline. Besides saying one application was from a business in Iowa and the others were from out-of-state firms, the public health department would provide no further details about companies or proposed locations for the manufacturing facilities.

“Due to the small number of applications received and statutory mandate to keep identities of applicants confidential until a license is awarded, we are unable to provide additional information at this time,” Spokeswoman Polly Carver-Kimm said in an email.

Iowa’s expanded medical cannabis law allows two manufacturers and five dispensaries. Eight companies filed notices of intent to apply for the second manufacturing license, but only four met Thursday’s deadline. The state plans to award the license by June 29, giving that company one year — until July 1, 2019, to have medical marijuana products ready to sell.

“There is nothing though that would prohibit a second manufacturer from making products available earlier than July 1, 2019 if they are able to do that,” Sarah Reisetter, deputy public health director, said earlier this week.

The winner would join MedPharm Iowa, which was awarded the state’s first manufacturing license Dec. 1 and must have products available by Dec. 1 of this year.

At least one company wants to manufacture medical marijuana in Cedar Rapids — but state officials won’t say whether that proposal was among those submitted by the Thursday deadline.

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The Cedar Rapids City Council agreed May 22 to endorse an application by the Iowa Cannabis Company, or ICC Mfg. Inc., for a manufacturer’s license.

Aaron Boshart, of Iowa Cannabis, told the council Cedar Rapids is the “best location geographically” for a plant that would create 20 jobs in its first year. Hourly wages would start at $15 and salaries would start at $85,000 a year, he said. Iowa Cannabis in March was awarded one of five Iowa licenses to sell medical marijuana at a dispensary in Waterloo. The state passed over an application from MedPharm to sell the products in Cedar Rapids.

Des Moines-based MedPharm secured Iowa’s first manufacturing permit last year, after it was the only company to apply. Although there was initial interest from other firms, the annual fee of $150,000 to $200,000 may have been a deterrent, Reisetter said.

Since that time, MedPharm has spent more than $10 million rehabbing 15,000 square feet in an old warehouse east of the Capitol into a state-of-the-art facility to cultivate, grow and dry medical marijuana and manufacture products.

Medical marijuana advocates say Iowa’s law is too restrictive with a 3 percent cap on tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, and a narrow list of medical conditions for which use of the products can be sought. The state health department has approved only 474 registration cards as of Thursday.

Companies that invest in state fees and startup costs may fear they won’t see a return.

The Iowa Legislature failed to pass several bills this year that would have expanded the law.

Several of the Democrats running for Iowa governor said at a debate earlier this week they support increasing access to medical marijuana. Cathy Glasson, president of SEIU Local 199, favors legalizing marijuana for medical and recreational uses for adults over 21.

“It’s time to expand the number of health conditions covered by the program and allow doctors, nurse practitioners and physician assistants to approve medical cannabis for treatment of any health condition that they believe it would help alleviate,” Glasson said in a news release Thursday.

Taxation of legal pot sales could lead to “tens of millions of dollars” in new revenue for the state, she said.

l Comments: (319) 339-3157; erin.jordan@thegazette.com

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