Iowa offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs made his mark on Mount Vernon. Many in town made their mark on him, too. Wirfs and his mother, Sarah, took The Gazette on a tour of his hometown, revisiting scenes around what essentially is the one square mile where he grew up. This story is a little about what can hold you back. This is mostly about what moves you forward.

2019 LEGISLATIVE SESSION

Her alcohol addiction weighed on Gov. Kim Reynolds' veto of medical cannabis expansion

Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks before presenting the Governor’s Volunteer Awards at The Hotel at Kirkwood Center in Cedar Rapids on Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2017. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks before presenting the Governor’s Volunteer Awards at The Hotel at Kirkwood Center in Cedar Rapids on Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2017. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — A proposed change in Iowa’s medical marijuana law was “too much of a jump” for Gov. Kim Reynolds, who said her own battle with addiction entered into her decision to veto the legislation.

“It was a tough, tough, tough call for me,” the governor said Monday about her veto of House File 732. The bill, approved earlier this year 96-3 by the House and 40-7 by the Senate, 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.

An increase that size could not be justified, she said. A marijuana gummy that can be purchased legally in Colorado contains between 5 and 25 milligrams of THC, the main mind-altering ingredient found in marijuana, Reynolds said. That equates to 277 milligrams of THC a day — five times higher than recommended by the Medical Cannabidiol Advisory Board.

“That was too much of a jump for me,” Reynolds said on WHO Radio.

Supporters said the 3 percent cap limits the effectiveness against most ailments. But Reynolds said she prefers to follow the recommendation of the state medical cannabis board, which recommended a prescription cap of 4.5 grams per 90 days. She’s said she’s not opposed to raising the cap because “I know it works for people.”

“I heard the stories. I respect that. I want to help be a part of that, too, but I have to be balanced in how I move forward with this,” she said.

Reynolds pledged to work with the Legislature to find a better approach to expanding access to medical cannabis.

“We have a whole big area in between where we can work with the Legislature — and we will do that over the interim — and find a number that is safe and balances the health and safety of Iowans while still trying to identify some innovative ways we can work with patients who need it,” she said.

Her decision to veto HF 732 was influenced by her experience with alcohol, she said.

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“I understand the world of addiction. I get it,” she said. “I know how fleeting recovery can be.”

Reynolds recounted a story of a young man who went through treatment with her. Forty-eight hours after celebrating his completion of the program, he had relapsed, jumped off a bridge and died.

“We have to be cautious and careful about how we move forward,” she said, adding that more Americans die in traffic crashes because of drug impairment than because of alcohol impairment. In Iowa, one-third of Iowa drug-related fatal crashes involve THC. “So I have to balance all of that.”

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

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