Staff Editorial

Lawmakers must make the call on cannabis

MedPharm Iowa’s Aliviar brand of medical cannabis capsule products at their Manufacturing Facility, Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018, in Des Moines. (Matthew Putney/Freelance)
MedPharm Iowa’s Aliviar brand of medical cannabis capsule products at their Manufacturing Facility, Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018, in Des Moines. (Matthew Putney/Freelance)

Last month, the Iowa House voted 96-3 for a bill allowing medical marijuana dispensaries in Iowa to sell more potent products to eligible patients. The legislation would remove a cap limiting the amount of THC in products to 3 percent, replacing it with language permitting Iowans to purchase up to 25 grams in a 90-day period. THC is the chemical in marijuana that produces a high, but also has potential therapeutic benefits.

It’s a change sought by medical cannabis patients, advocates and manufacturers.

During debate, Rep. Jarad Klein, R-Keota, a bill supporter, told the House he had worked on the proposal with members of the state Medical Cannabis Advisory Board. But in the wake of the House vote, one member of that board, neurologist Wendy Zadeh, resigned.

Zadeh insisted Klein misrepresented the position of the board, which voted last fall to recommend keeping the THC cap in place. Klein insisted that he discussed the bill with board members, but not the entire panel. Meanwhile, the bill faces an uncertain future in the Senate.

Regardless of this bill’s fate, we believe it’s the job of an elected Legislature to make the call on important policy issues such as this one. It’s a job that shouldn’t be handed to an appointed board.

Boards and commissions permeate state government. Many serve vital functions. The nine-member Cannabis Advisory Board, appointed by the governor, is made up of medical practitioners and one law enforcement officer. It was created by the Legislature to offer advice and recommendations to help guide Iowa’s medical cannabis program.

It’s done its job. And legislators have to do theirs.

The board is not the only place lawmakers can receive information and recommendations on cannabis policy. Other medical practitioners, sick Iowans, caregivers and entrepreneurs who have invested in Iowa’s fledgling program have roundly and reasonably criticized the THC cap as too restrictive. Removing the cap will make better, more effective and more affordable treatments available to Iowans.

So Iowans directly affected by the program want changes. Polls show Iowans want an expanded program. The appointed advisory board made its recommendation, and we hope members continue to lend their expertise to the evolving program.

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But we expect elected lawmakers to make the ultimate decision on what’s best for their constituents and for the state. That’s what our representatives tried to do, and why voters sent them to the Capitol.

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