Iowa Gov. Reynolds defends medical marijuana expansion veto

Democrats ask peers to override her decision

The MedPharm Iowa Dispensary Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2018, in Windsor Heights, Iowa.
The MedPharm Iowa Dispensary Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2018, in Windsor Heights, Iowa.

DES MOINES — Gov. Kim Reynolds is defending her veto of a medical marijuana expansion she views as “too much of a jump,” but at least two Democratic lawmakers said Tuesday they want the Republican-led Legislature to convene a special session to override her decision.

Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, and Rep. John Forbes, a Democrat and an Urbandale pharmacist, say they want to give legislators a second chance to support the legislation intended to help suffering Iowans.

They plan Wednesday to ask majority Republicans to call for a special session to resurrect House File 732. The Democrats note the bill to expand the medical cannabis program passed the Iowa House by a vote of 96 to 3 and the Iowa Senate by a vote of 40 to 7. It would take a two-thirds vote of both chambers to convene a special legislative session to consider overturning the Republican governor’s veto.

Last week, Reynolds decided Iowa’s medical marijuana program should not be expanded in the way legislators had proposed.

The proposal would have removed the 3 percent cap on THC and instead limited the amount of medical cannabis a patient could be prescribed at any one time to 25 grams over 90 days.

“We need to be narrow and cautious in how we move forward,” Reynolds said Tuesday. She told reporters she wants a more balanced approach, saying “I do not support recreational marijuana and I just felt that was too much of a jump.”

Reynolds said she vetoed the proposal because the cap would still allow an individual to consume more THC a day than an illegal user.


Supporters said the expansion is necessary because the 3 percent cap limits the effectiveness against most ailments.

But Reynolds said she deferred to the state medical cannabis board, which recommended a prescription cap of just 4.5 grams per 90 days.

The board was created to oversee the program and recommend changes to lawmakers. It is made up of eight physicians and one law enforcement official, each appointed by the governor.

Reynolds pledged to continue working with the board and lawmakers on potentially expanding the program, saying Tuesday she was “all in” for finding a balance “and we’ll get there.”

Sen. Brad Zaun, R-Urbandale and a strong supporter of the medical cannabis program and its proposed expansion, said in a statement last week he was “extremely disappointed” with the veto, but said after conversations with Reynolds he remains committed to work with her and other lawmakers during the 2020 legislative session.

Lucas Nelson, general manager of the Iowa medical cannabis manufacturer MedPharm, said last week the veto will “greatly hurt Iowans trying to fight debilitating medical conditions” because the changes would have fixed Iowa’s “deeply flawed” program.

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