Staff Editorial

Painfully slow cannabis reform in Iowa

Work continues in late 2018 at Have a Heart Compassion Care, a medical marijuana dispensary in Davenport, before it opened for the first time. Itis one of five state-approved locations in Iowa that sell medical marijua products. (John Schultz, Quad-City Times)
Work continues in late 2018 at Have a Heart Compassion Care, a medical marijuana dispensary in Davenport, before it opened for the first time. Itis one of five state-approved locations in Iowa that sell medical marijua products. (John Schultz, Quad-City Times)

Iowa’s glacial movement toward a sensible medical marijuana system got a small boost last week.

The Iowa Medical Cannabidiol Board approved a recommendation to include two new sets of conditions — post-traumatic stress disorder and certain intellectual disabilities with aggression or self-injury — in the state’s heavily restricted medical cannabis program. Those recommendations will next be reviewed by the Iowa Board of Medicine.

At the same meeting, however, board members turned down a petition to add opioid dependency and Alzheimer’s disease to the list of approved conditions. That was disappointing, albeit not totally surprising given the board’s previous record.

Also last week, the Cannabidiol Board passed a recommendation asking the Legislature to alter the limit on tetrahydrocannabinol in Iowa’s medical cannabis products.

Under the current law, all products are capped at 3 percent THC, which many patients and practitioners say is far too low to effectively treat some conditions. The newly advanced proposal would replace the percentage cap with a volume limit of 4.5 grams of THC over a 90-day period.

It’s hard to say which restriction is better. They are both bad in their own ways.

The percentage cap might be forcing patients to take large portions of medicine to get the THC they need, which is inefficient and costly. The volume limit might allow for some higher-THC products, but would still prevent patients from getting the full amount of THC they need.

Earlier this year, Iowa lawmakers offered a much better solution with a bipartisan bill to allow a 25-gram limit of THC over a 90-day period.

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In a major setback to sick Iowans, Gov. Kim Reynolds vetoed the bill, citing the Medical Cannabidiol Board’s

opposition.

Drug control advocates and some medical professionals are reluctant to expand access to medical cannabis without overwhelming evidence that cannabis is an effective treatment. At the meeting last week, one advocate criticized what he called “pop culture medical advice,” the Associated Press reported.

This conservative approach to medical regulation sets the bar too high. Patients and physicians turn to medical cannabis after other treatments have been ineffective. Iowans who suffer from life-altering illnesses and chronic ailments deserve the right to try, regardless of the medical and political consensus.

As Iowans suffer, policymakers are hemming and hawing over the imagined unintended consequences of drug reform. Change is coming, but it’s not nearly quick enough.

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

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