Health

Iowa medical marijuana board to consider PTSD, Alzheimer's as treatable conditions

Medical Cannabidiol Board also will weigh lifting THC cap in favor of purchase limits

Cannabis plants grow inside the mother room at MedPharm Iowa in Des Moines on Tuesday, Jul. 24, 2018. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
Cannabis plants grow inside the mother room at MedPharm Iowa in Des Moines on Tuesday, Jul. 24, 2018. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

The Iowa Medical Cannabidiol Board will consider changes to the state’s medical marijuana program this week, which include the addition of more qualifying conditions and a recommendation to remove the 3 percent THC cap and replace it with a purchase limit.

The board will meet on Friday to vote on petitions that would allow people with post-traumatic stress disorder, opioid use disorder, Alzheimer’s disease, and intellectual disability with aggression and/or self-injury to use medical cannabidiol to treat their conditions.

If the board approves the petitions, they will move to the Iowa Medical Board for a vote.

If the medical board approves a petition, an effective date will be set so patients can have their condition certified for medical marijuana use.

The meeting is open to the public and will take place at the Iowa Laboratory Facility in Ankeny on the Des Moines Area Community College campus.

Doug Bosswick, acting general manager of the Cedar Rapids medical marijuana manufacturer Iowa Relief, voiced support for expanding qualifying conditions under the program.

“We believe cannabinoid medicine can be effective for a variety of ailments and plan to closely follow the state’s decision on the addition of qualifying conditions proposed by legislators,” Bosswick said in a statement. “If approved by the board, we would be happy to serve patients who suffer from any approved qualifying conditions.”

The petitions for PTSD, opioid use disorder and Alzheimer’s disease were put to the board my MedPharm Iowa, one of two companies approved to produce and sell medical marijuana in Iowa.

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MedPharm General Manager Lucas Nelson said the petition regarding PTSD is one of the most comprehensive proposals the company has put before the board, as it references “more than 60 sources” that demonstrate the effectiveness of medical marijuana for people with the condition.

“It’s not going to work for every single patient, but in this compassionate care program, there’s no reason it would not be one of the approved conditions,” Nelson said.

In a statement earlier this month, Iowa Senate Democrats asked Iowans to voice their support for the petition during the upcoming meeting.

“Any Iowan with PTSD should not be denied access to effective treatments, especially those that are safe alternatives to risky opioids,” the statement read.

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The Medical Cannabidiol Board, which will meet for the last time this year on Friday, also will review its 2019 Annual Report Recommendations that will be sent to the Iowa Legislature ahead of the 2020 session.

Among several recommendations, the board may ask state lawmakers to remove the 3 percent THC cap on products and replace it with a purchase limit of 4.5 grams of THC over 90 days.

THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the psychoactive component of cannabis.

Under Iowa law, medical marijuana products sold in Iowa must not contain more than 3 percent THC. However, there currently is no purchase limit for patients.

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Gov. Kim Reynolds vetoed legislation earlier this year that would remove the 3 percent cap and install a 25 gram purchase limit over 90 days, stating it “could open the door to significant unintended consequences to the health and safety of Iowans.”

“Ultimately, I believe Iowa must proceed cautiously to ensure that any expansion of our medical CBD program is thoughtful and deliberate — particularly because Iowa’s program is in its infancy and the body of research that analyzes the efficacy of medical CBD is limited,” Reynolds said in a statement.

The purchase limit would not apply to the terminally ill. The limit could also be increased by the certifying health care provider without board approval.

But despite those exceptions, MedPharm’s Nelson said the policy would be “unequivocally devastating to patients” in the medical marijuana program.

Any patient who needs more than 200mg of THC a day for a condition will no longer have access to the dosage they need under a purchasing limit, he said. That means they would have to reduce their dosage or run out of their medical marijuana before the 90 days are up, Nelson said.

Nelson also pushed back on those in support of a purchase limit who say this could mitigate the risk of people using these products for recreational purposes. That doesn’t happen in Iowa’s program, he said.

“People are using this for medical benefit, and that’s it,” Nelson said.

A full agenda of the Iowa Medical Cannabidiol Board meeting on Friday can be found at idph.iowa.gov/omc/Medical-Cannabidiol-Board.

Comments: (319) 368-8536; michaela.ramm@thegazette.com

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