IOWA LEGISLATURE

Medical cannabis changes diverge in bills OK'd by Iowa House, Senate subcommittees

Gov. Kim Reynolds won't tip her hand about what changes she will accept

Marijuana grown for medical purposes is shown inside a greenhouse at a farm in Potter Valley, Calif. Members of the Iowa
Marijuana grown for medical purposes is shown inside a greenhouse at a farm in Potter Valley, Calif. Members of the Iowa House and Senate are considering bills that would change the state’s medical cannabidiol law. (AP file photo)

By James Lynch and Erin Murphy, Gazette-Lee Des Moines Bureau

DES MOINES — Iowa lawmakers and Gov. Kim Reynolds agree the state’s medical cannabidiol law needs to change, but there are significant differences in how much they are willing to change.

The Iowa House and Senate on Wednesday passed separate and significantly different expansions of the state medical cannabis program. The governor, who vetoed an expansion in 2019, mostly declined to show her hand.

The House Public Safety Committee voted along party lines for a bill that would replace the current 3 percent THC limit on medical cannabidiol with a limit of 4.5 grams over 90 days.

Rep. Jarad Klein, R-Keota, the committee chairman, acknowledged House Study Bill 653 is a small step, but “a step in the right direction.”

Referencing Reynolds’ 2019 veto, Klein said lawmakers “don’t want to see things languish for another year.”

The Senate Judiciary Committee, meantime, passed an expansion that includes raising the cap to 25 grams over 90 days. That was the cap in the 2019 legislation that Reynolds vetoed.

Sen. Brad Zaun, R-Urbandale, the committee chairman, said Senate Study Bill 3136 is “going for the gusto.” He said he is willing to negotiate the cap, but he wanted to start with a higher number.

Reynolds said Wednesday she is willing to consider negotiating the cap limit, but would not but say how far she’s willing to go. She did make clear she will not sign any legislation with a 25-gram cap, and said Zaun knows that.

“We continue to have conversations to find what is acceptable, what can we get through the House and through the Senate continue to make progress from the existing statute,” she said. “I really do anticipate us getting something done this legislative session.”

Klein said he was disappointed by the governor’s veto last year and wants assurance from Reynolds that she will sign what the Legislature sends her.

“What I’ve requested is a public statement of actual position rather than signals,” Klein said.

“Part of the reason we didn’t get a bill done last year was we didn’t know her position. There wasn’t clarity. We worked with the best intentions, thought we had a good piece of legislation, she disagreed, but we didn’t know that until the veto.”

Reynolds said she’s “not going to draw a line in the sand right now while we’re continue to work with the House and the Senate to come to some resolution.”

In addition to changing the THC cap, the House proposal adds physician assistants, advanced registered nurse practitioners, advanced practice registered nurses and podiatrists to the list of health care practitioners allowed to certify a patient to receive a medical cannabidiol registration card.

It also would allow a terminally ill patient with less than a year to live to receive more than 4.5 grams, Klein said.

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The Senate proposal adds autism and post-traumatic stress disorder to the list of covered ailments, and replaces the threshold of “untreatable pain” with “severe or chronic pain.”

Only two committee members, both Republicans, voted against the Senate proposal: Sens. Dan Dawson and Julian Garrett.

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