Lawmakers again expand medical marijuana program

Proposal tweaks THC limit and allows more to qualify

Sen. Thomas A. Greene, R-Burlington
Sen. Thomas A. Greene, R-Burlington

DES MOINES — In what is becoming a legislative tradition, lawmakers on the final day of the session approved an expansion of Iowa’s medical cannabis program.

The latest proposal would remove the cap on how much THC — the chemical in marijuana that creates the user’s high sensation — and instead limits the amount of medical cannabis a patient can be prescribed at any one time.

It passed the Senate by a 40-7 vote Saturday, the final day of the 2019 legislative session. It was one of the final bills debated.

The program itself was created on the final day of the 2014 session and expanded on the final day of the 2017 session.

“This has been a long journey,” said Sen. Thomas Greene, R-Burlington, a pharmacist who became emotional and had to pause while expressing his support for the bill and praising fellow senators for their work on it. “I know many patients who need this medication. This is a small step, but we need to keep the ball rolling.”

Currently, the state limits the amount of THC 3 percent. The provision would remove that cap and instead limit the amount of medical cannabis a physician can recommend to no more than 25 grams in 90 days.

It also softens language on which Iowans can be recommended for the program, changing “untreatable pain” to “severe or chronic pain,” and allows physicians assistants and nurse practitioners to recommend patients for the program.


Sen. Brad Zaun, R-Urbandale, an ardent supporter of the state’s program, described the latest expansion as “not perfect,” but “a step in the right direction.”

The proposal previously passed the House on a 96-3 vote.

Gov. Kim Reynolds has not said whether she would approve the bill.

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