2019 LEGISLATIVE SESSION

Iowa House tweaks medical marijuana law, focusing on amount of THC that can be dispensed

Changes address THC level, increase patient access

MedPharm Iowa’s Aliviar brand of medical cannabis cream products at their Manufacturing Facility, Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018, in Des Moines. (Matthew Putney/Freelance)
MedPharm Iowa’s Aliviar brand of medical cannabis cream products at their Manufacturing Facility, Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018, in Des Moines. (Matthew Putney/Freelance)

DES MOINES — Without expanding the list of conditions medical marijuana may be used to treat, the Iowa House on Tuesday tweaked the state’s 2014 medical cannabis program that began offering products to Iowans last year.

The changes, approved 96-3, would strike a provision placing the THC cap at 3 percent. Tetrahydrocannabinol is the chemical that can cause a high sensation.

Instead, the law would be tweaked to say that a dispensary could not provide more than a total of 25 grams of THC to a patient or primary caregiver in a 90-day period, according to House Public Safety Committee Chairman Jarad Klein, R-Keota.

The state’s two medical marijuana product manufacturers — one in Des Moines and the other building a Cedar Rapids facility — have argued the 3 percent cap is too limiting to make products effective for some patients.

The changes also would allow physician assistants and nurse practitioners to recommend its use and to make medical marijuana products available to people with felony drug convictions who otherwise would not qualify.

Despite “great differences of opinion,” Klein said, lawmakers “came together and found reasonable solutions, reasonable responses to help sick people.”

Although the bill doesn’t expand the number of conditions that may be treated with medical cannabis, “we’re making the (law) better, said to Rep. John Forbes, D-Urbandale, a pharmacist who has worked on medical cannabis legislation at least five years.

“We’re giving better access for patients to medical cannabis products,” he said.

Not fast enough, according to Rep. Jeff Shipley, R-Fairfield, who offered an amendment to expand medical cannabis treatment to people with glaucoma, hepatitis C, PTSD, muscular dystrophy, Alzheimer’s, rheumatoid arthritis and other conditions if a medical professional believes it would be beneficial.

“I know this issue is really controversial (but) I don’t quite understand the controversy,” Shipley said. “To me, it’s just about empowering the patients.”

He withdrew his amendment.

Rep. Wes Breckenridge, D-Newton, conceded that some people would say the changes didn’t go far enough.

“Is it perfect? No, it’s not perfect,” said Breckenridge. “Are we moving in the right direction? Absolutely.”

The bill also would change wording so the law refers to “severe or chronic pain,” which medical professional prefer, to the current “debilitating medical condition” language.

It also would allow medical cannabis to be used by terminally ill people with a life expectancy of less than a year.

The bill now goes to the Senate Judiciary Committee, which Klein believes will pass House File 732 before an April 5 deadline to keep it alive for more consideration.

l Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

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