Staff Editorial

Iowa patients failed by political inaction

Another reminder Iowa's medical cannabis program is unworkable

A marijuana leaf is displayed at Canna Pi medical marijuana dispensary in Seattle, Washington, in this November 27, 2012 file photo.  REUTERS/Anthony Bolante
A marijuana leaf is displayed at Canna Pi medical marijuana dispensary in Seattle, Washington, in this November 27, 2012 file photo. REUTERS/Anthony Bolante

State policymakers are failing patients in Eastern Iowa.

Regulators revealed the list of five planned medical marijuana dispensaries this week. The list includes no locations in the Iowa City or Cedar Rapids areas, the latest sign that Iowa’s upstart medical cannabis program is severely overregulated.

If it sounds like you’ve read this before, you’re probably right. I’ve written several times over the past year that overbearing regulations will severely limit the effectiveness of Iowa’s medical cannabis program.

No, I’m not suffering from cannabis-induced memory loss (which is not a documented side effect of the products coming to Iowa). Rather, I have to keep bringing the issue up, because new developments keep giving me new reasons to be skeptical of the law passed by the Legislature last year.

If Iowa had sensible marijuana laws, I would happily give up on writing on this subject, along with the ample web traffic that comes with it. I would much rather dedicate my time to writing about other libertarian ideas, like the scourge of taxation and the failure of centrally planned economies.

But then again, my job in all of this is easy: Track the news, talk to stakeholders or decision-makers, and then complain about it in the newspaper. I don’t suffer from any debilitating physical ailment. As a healthy young person, my quality of life isn’t significantly diminished by the fact the government won’t let Iowans access cannabis.

The real victims of this week’s news are the patients throughout Iowa who will be poorly served by the limited number of medical marijuana dispensaries.

Hundreds of sick Iowans and their families have been advocating for years for safe, legal access to medical treatments, which the vast majority of Americans already enjoy. Even with our 2017 law allowing for the production and distribution of some cannabis products, Iowa laws remain some of the most restrictive in the nation.

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That law — approved by Republican majorities last legislative session and signed by former Gov. Terry Branstad — allows for only two production licenses and five dispensary licenses. And due to strict regulations and high fees attached to the new program, only one company applied for a production license.

Planned dispensaries in five cities — Council Bluffs, Davenport, Waterloo, Windsor Heights, and Sioux City — are not adequate. Johnson County and Linn County account for more than 10 percent of the state’s population, yet most people here will find themselves about an hour’s drive from the nearest dispensary.

Restricted geographical access is only one of several pressing shortfalls in Iowa’s medical cannabis law. Critics also say it does not cover enough conditions, and the allowable limit on tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is too low to be effective for some patients.

Lawmakers have a chance to do right by sick patients. Senate File 2372 is an important first step toward improving the law, by allowing regulators to cover more ailments and increase THC levels.

Sick Iowans are sick of waiting.

• Comments: (319) 339-3156; adam.sullivan@thegazette.com

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