2019 LEGISLATIVE SESSION

House speaker eyes more cannabidiol access for Iowans

Empty display bottles of medical marijuana at MedPharm Iowa Dispensary Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2018, at the dispensary in Windsor Heights, Iowa.
Empty display bottles of medical marijuana at MedPharm Iowa Dispensary Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2018, at the dispensary in Windsor Heights, Iowa.

DES MOINES — The Iowa House likely will consider changes to the state’s medical cannabidiol law, including increasing the number of practitioners who can give Iowans access.

“There are things that can be done, things we will do, that make it a little easier, a little safer and give the board a little more latitude,” House Speaker Linda Upmeyer, R-Clear Lake, said Tuesday after meeting with members of the Medical Cannabidiol Board.

Upmeyer said the Legislature is being “very intentional” in its approach to expanding access to medical cannabidiol, which is the second most prevalent cannabinoid in marijuana after THC.

Cannabidiol, or CBD, is a non-psychoactive chemical that some research suggests has healing properties. CBD products can be used to help people sleep, lessen chronic pain, and treat anxiety and depression, among other issues.

As of Feb. 1, there were 505 health care professionals in Iowa who have patients certified for medical cannabidiol. There are 1,361 patients and caregivers registered in the state program.

Upmeyer foresees expanding authority to certify patients of physicians’ assistants and nurse practitioners “to make sure people don’t have to travel long distances” to meet with a health care professional who can give them that access, she said.

The concept of compassionate care may be expanded beyond those who have a terminal illness, Upmeyer said.

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“It’s something that doctors understand, such as someone who has exhausted other options and this is something they want to try,” she said.

The meeting also reinforced for her the need for more research to guide the board and lawmakers.

“They wish, and we all wish, there were more studies that gave more medical world evidence as opposed to anecdotal evidence,” said Upmeyer, a nurse practitioner. “We’re gaining. It’s slow. Most of those studies for illnesses like this need to be longitudinal,” which takes more time.

Upmeyer acknowledged that she hasn’t been willing to move as fast as other lawmakers to expand Iowa’s law that allows cannabidiol to be produced and sold in Iowa. Under current law, the state only allows two manufacturing licenses and five dispensary licenses.

“You either throw open the doors and not worry about public safety, you don’t worry about adolescents or any of that, or you proceed in a pretty methodical way based on evidence and science,” Upmeyer said.

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

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