Staff Editorial

Fledgling cannabis industry needs a policy boost

Local and state politicians and businesspeople gather at a groundbreaking event for Iowa Relief LLC, a cannibidiol manufacturing plant that plans to produce medical marijuana starting in July on the southwest side of Cedar Rapids on Thursday, Dec. 13, 2018. The company is the second facility to be awarded a state license to manufacture medical marijuana. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
Local and state politicians and businesspeople gather at a groundbreaking event for Iowa Relief LLC, a cannibidiol manufacturing plant that plans to produce medical marijuana starting in July on the southwest side of Cedar Rapids on Thursday, Dec. 13, 2018. The company is the second facility to be awarded a state license to manufacture medical marijuana. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

It is going to be an uphill climb for Iowa Relief, one of two companies licensed to manufacture medical cannabis products in the Hawkeye State. Fortunately, the business is focusing on long-term success.

Iowa Relief broke ground recently on a roughly 5,000-foot facility that will be located on Cedar Rapids’ southwest side. Dignitaries, state and local, were on hand to celebrate the accomplishment, even as current state law makes the prospect of immediate or short-term profits bleak.

So far, fewer than 1,000 Iowans have been granted authority to purchase the cannabis products manufactured by Iowa Relief and Des Moines-based MedPharm. Although a state board has considered various recommendations to further tweak the law — possibilities like adding more diagnosed conditions or forms of cannabis consumption — the changes are unlikely to significantly increase statewide participation.

“I think, with our involvement in the program, it will expand. It’s just going to take time,” said Patrick Doherty, senior operations associate for Acreage Holdings, the New Jersey-based parent company of Iowa Relief. Under the umbrella of the organization are manufacturing operations in 17 other states, profits from which will likely supplement the Iowa program while it awaits expansion.

Specifically, state leaders must consider removal of an existing cap on tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, for medical cannabis. Products used by Iowans can currently contain no more than 3 percent, which has cast serious doubt on their effectiveness for Iowans who could potentially see the most benefit from marijuana-related products. There’s worry that in order to access a more effective amount of THC, Iowans might simply take additional product.

Also too restrictive is Iowa’s list of approved ailments, and where the small number of approved patients can access their medication. Only two manufacturing licenses and five distribution points have been approved by the state.

While not overly optimistic these necessary changes will be made in the next Legislative session, we do believe medical cannabis in Iowa will be expanded, just as it has been in other states. For the sake of the Iowans who could realize the benefits of cannabis, as well as the companies taking a chance on Iowa’s fledgling industry, we hope change comes sooner, rather than later.

• Comments: (319) 398-8262; editorial@thegazette.com

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